SA launches its first Covid-19 vaccine trial


45 days ago

At a virtual press conference held on Tuesday, the University of the Witwatersrand announced it would be launching the first South African, and African, Covid-19 vaccine trial starting on Wednesday.

Professor Shabir Madhi talks to Clement Manyathela about the trial.

The vaccine trial that we are embarking on with the first participants tomorrow is a vaccine that has been developed at the University of Oxford and has embarked on clinical trials in the United Kingdom.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

In the United Kingdom, 7,000 participants have already been involved in the trial and by the end of July will have tested the vaccine on 10,000 participants.

The South African study is a separate study from that being done in the United Kingdom but it is the same vaccine and will involve up to 2,000 participants.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

He says this is firstly to establish the safety of the vaccine, and secondly to determine if it does indeed protect individuals against developing Covid-19.

2000 participants will be enrolled in the study over the next six weeks, he explains.

They might get two doses of the vaccine.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

How long will it take to get answers about the vaccine's efficacy?

It really depends on how frequently people become infected with the virus.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

In a vaccine study, half the group receives the vaccine, and the other half a placebo.

The frequency of Covid-19 infections between the two groups is then compared.

And that is what enables us to establish if the vaccine works or not.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

Under an optimistic scenario, we are hoping to be able to get an answer before the end of this year,

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

As the country breaches the 100,000 total of infections Madhi says the modelling marks total Covid-19 deaths by year-end optimistically at 40,000 and pessimistically at 75,000.

But in terms of the number of people who will be infected, it will be a quarter of the population in South Africa.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

He adds that the current number of 100,000 reported cases is probably one-tenth of the true number of people who have been infected...it is obviously very biased based on who has presented for testing and who has been tested.

Two out of every three people who are infected are completely asymptomatic so they would not even know they are infected.

Prof Shabir Madhi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

In addition, he says the testing rate in South Africa is far less than in Northern hemisphere countries, only 22 per 1000 people.

Listen to the interview with Prof Madhi below:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : SA launches its first Covid-19 vaccine trial

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