The University of the Witwatersrand has announced South Africa's first Covid-19 vaccine trial and its first participants will be enrolled this week.
The trial aims to find a vaccine that will prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is the virus that causes Covid-19.
"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," Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University and Director of the South Africa Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, Shabir Madhi, said in a virtual briefing on Tuesday.
"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.
The trial comes after South Africa recorded 101 590 positive cases on Monday night, and a further 61 deaths, taking the death toll to 1 991.
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.
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.
In addition, participants will need to provide written informed consent to participate in the trial and they will remain on the trial for about one year.
The study, which will come at a cost of R150-million, will take place in "urban metropoles where the risk of SARS-CoV2 infection is high, and which are likely to be Covid-19 hotspots".
"Our best-case scenario is that we would have an answer [on the outcomes] for this particular vaccine by the end of the year," Madhi added.