The first Covid-19 vaccine trial in South Africa begins

“As we enter winter in South Africa and pressure increases on public hospitals, now more than ever we need a vaccine to prevent infection by Covid-19.”

DURBAN – Wits University has announced South Africa’s first Covid-19 vaccine trial and its first participants will be enrolled this week.

The University is collaborating with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute on the South African trial. The trial aims to find a vaccine that will prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. 

At the launch of the trail on Tuesday, Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits said: “This is a landmark moment for South Africa and Africa at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we enter winter in South Africa and pressure increases on public hospitals, now more than ever we need a vaccine to prevent infection by Covid-19.”

Prior to launch, the South African study was subject to rigorous review and has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand.

Furthermore, after eliciting and considering public comment, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) approved the importation of the investigational vaccine for use in the trial. The vaccine being used in the South African trial is the same as that being used in the UK where more than 4,000 participants have already been enrolled. Similar and related studies are about to start in Brazil.

According to Madhi, participants will form part of three groups:

  • Group One, which will comprise 50 people who are HIV negative;
  • Group Two, comprising 1 900 participants who are HIV negative; and
  • Group Three, comprising 50 people living with HIV.

“We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 Covid-19 vaccine trial last week and the first participants will be vaccinated this week,” he said.

The 1 950 participants, aged between 18 to 65 and who are HIV negative, should not have tested positive for Covid-19 and should not be pregnant or breastfeeding, nor have previously participated in a trial involving an adenoviral vaccine or received any other coronavirus vaccine.

Dr Sandile Buthelezi, the Director General of Health in the National Department of Health, said: “The National Department of Health is excited at the launch of this vaccine trial, which will go a long way to cement South Africa’s leadership in the scientific space. With Covid-19 infections increasing every day, the development of the vaccine will be the last solution in the long term, and we are fully behind the team leading this trial.” 

 

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