Large-scale coronavirus vaccine trial begins in South Africa

Large-scale coronavirus vaccine trial begins in South Africa
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A large-scale coronavirus vaccine trial began in South Africa on Wednesday, making it the first African nation included in such a study.

The University of Oxford in Britain is conducting vaccine trials in South Africa, Britain and Brazil. The university, the Oxford Jenner Institute and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg are collaborating in the South African part of the trials, according to a release

The first participants for the trial were screened last week and will be vaccinated this week, Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at University of the Witwatersrand who is leading the South African trials, said.

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“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,” Madhi said in a statement.

By last week, South Africa had 30 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23 percent of the deaths in the African continent. This week the country also experienced its highest one-day increase in COVID-19 deaths with 111 on Tuesday.

As a whole, Africa has counted almost 325,000 cases. Countries have begun lifting coronavirus restrictions, with people saying they've been unable to feed their families while under lockdown.

Some public experts predict the continent will become the next hot spot in the pandemic. 

Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief John Nkengasong said Wednesday that the pandemic was delayed in Africa “but is picking up speed very quickly,” The Associated Press reported

“Unless we act now, Africa is at risk of being left behind on the global vaccine,” he said.

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All 54 of Africa’s countries now have the lab capacity to test for the coronavirus, up from in February when only two were able to test, accordion got the AP. 

African leaders have been requesting more medical supplies, saying they have been left out of the competition for them during the pandemic. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the initial supply of the vaccine should be distributed where it’s needed, rather than based on a country’s “ability to pay.”

Oxford University and AstraZeneca are expected to begin their third phase of testing in the U.S. in August, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases confirmed to The Hill earlier this month.