South Africa will launch the first clinical trial of a continent-wide coronavirus vaccine this week, the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg announced on Tuesday.
The vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, was developed by the Jenner Institute at the University of Oxford and is already being tested in the UK, where more than 4,000 people are expected to participate.
In South Africa, some 2,000 people were enrolled in this trial, including 50 with the HIV virus. “We started to select participants […] last week and the first will be vaccinated this week,” said Professor Shabir Madhi of the University of the Witwatersrand, in charge of the trial, on Tuesday.
The number of cases of Covid-19 infections surpassed the 100,000 mark on Monday, with nearly 2,000 dead, in South Africa, the country in sub-Saharan Africa most affected by the global health crisis.
President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed very strict confinement on his population at the end of March, before gradually lifting it to avoid the suffocation of the economy.
Coronavirus: a vaccine developed in three months is tested for the first time on humans in Europe.
“As we enter winter (austral) and the pressure on public hospitals increases, we need more than ever a vaccine against Covid-19,” said Professor Madhi.
Dexamethasone production increased
South African health officials also expect a lot from dexamethasone, a powerful steroid that has been shown to be effective in treating the most severely ill patients with Covid-19.
The South African pharmacy giant Aspen Pharmacare that manufactures it said it was ready to increase its production.