South Africa begins continent's pilot coronavirus vaccine trial

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jun 24, 2020, 11.39 PM(IST)

COVID-19 vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )

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Spearheaded by the Oxford University, in partnership with the local University of the Witwatersrand, it consists of 2,000 volunteers falling in the age bracket of 18-65

Africa's first human trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine began in South Africa on Wednesday, June 24.

Spearheaded by the Oxford University, in partnership with the local University of the Witwatersrand, it consists of 2,000 volunteers falling in the age bracket of 18-65. This pool of volunteers includes a few HIV+ patients, subject to monitoring over the next 12 months.

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"Once 60% of the population, especially the adult population, becomes immune, we expect that effective reproductive rate to go under 1, which basically means the virus will still be around, it will still circulate, but its chain of transmission has been interrupted," said Shabir Madhi, trial head, and professor of Vaccinology at Wits University.

Oxford's global vaccine

Outside of the United Kingdom, South Africa is second country after Brazil to take part in Oxford’s trials. Oxford’s vaccine is called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, also known as AZD1222. Scientists from Oxford are currently working with AstraZeneca to improve the pace of development and production.

A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020.
A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country's first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020 | Reuters


The United Kingdom currently has 4,000 participants enrolled for the study. In a university statement released on Wednesday, it was announced that an additional 10,000 participants will join the trials.

Stretching it further, the United States plans to conduct an additional study which will have over 30,000 participants.

South Africa currently has the most infections on the African continent, with over 100,000 cases and 2,000 deaths. The country had begun to ease its lockdown recently.

Taken advantage of

Historically, big pharmaceutical companies have taken advantage of the minimal monitoring in Africa, using human subjects as guinea pigs, putting their lives at risk.

"I feel a little bit scared, but I want to know what is going on with this vaccine so that I can tell my friends and others," Junior Mhlongo, a volunteer who received the vaccine at a hospital in Johannesburg, told Reuters.

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No vaccine has been successfully curated yet, but over a dozen are under development, with over 100 being tested on humans.

According to the World Health Organization, Africa could become the next epicentre of the pandemic. This could be catastrophic as many countries in the region lack healthcare and are concurrently dealing with other outbreaks, including the more fatal Ebola.

(With inputs from Reuters and AFP)