South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) announced on Tuesday during a virtual press conference that it will begin the continent’s first clinical trial for a Covid-19 vaccine.
Leading the South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University and Director of the South Africa Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA).
“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,” said Madhi at the launch.
“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 added.
Speaking to FORBES AFRICA, Martin Veller, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits, believes South Africa is very much in the early phase of the pandemic.
“We will be seeing a lot more cases. And that is already reflected in the significant increase of the numbers that we’ve seen in the country.”
South Africa’s total number of cases has surpassed 100,000 with the death toll reaching 1,991.
The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial will start tomorrow, June 24.
“2,000 people will be entered into the trial. It’s important to note that the trial is largely going to be a placebo-controlled trial. One needs to see firstly what the safety of the vaccine is but much more importantly whether it’s effective,” says Veller.
He further stated that the participants will be followed for a whole year and the results will be analysed intermittently.
The institution is also collaborating with other institutions on the vaccine trial.
“Because of the expertise that Professor Madhi, his colleagues at Oxford University very early on contacted him to take part in the development and the trials of this vaccine,” says Veller.
Wits will also be collaborating with the Jenner Institute at Oxford University on the trial.