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South Africa: Trials for Covid-19 vaccine has begun by Oxford scientists in township of Soweto

A resident from the Black township of Soweto has become the first South African to be injected with a trial vaccine for Covid-19. The scientists are seeking a cure to the virus, it has infected as well as killed hundreds of thousands across the globe.

A potential vaccine has been developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute in the UK. This vaccine is being tried on about 2,000 Africans and Mhlongo, aged 24, is one of them.

After he received an injection on Tuesday from Shabir Madhi, head of vaccinology at Wits University and director of the South Africa Medical Research Council’s vaccines and infectious diseases analytics research unit, Mholongo decided that he wanted to learn about Covid-19 and help doctors find a cure for the virus.

Madhi, another member of the panel advising the South African government on the pandemic said, “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, we need a vaccine now more than ever”.

The South African participants will be joined by, 4,000 in the UK, 5,000 in Brazil, and additional 10,000 participants planned, and up to 30,000 expected to be enrolled in the US.

Officially known as the Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-trial, the South African component of the trial is also a first for the African continent.

In South Africa, at least 1,00,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 2,000 have died from virus. In March the President declared a state of disaster and national lockdown which is continuing at Level 3 of a five-level strategic approach to fight the pandemic.

“Vaccines are amongst the most powerful tools to mitigate life-threatening diseases. Without a vaccine against Covid-19, there will likely be ongoing contagion, causing severe illness and death,” said Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice Principal and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits University.

He said his institution was committed to cooperate with Oxford University in the trial.

Intense debate has been going on worldwide including at the World Health Organisation, that the vaccine, when it is found, be made available to all countries at low or even no cost to developing countries instead of just selling it to rich and developed countries.

“As the world rallies to find health solutions, a South African endeavour for the development of an effective Covid-19 vaccine is testament to our commitment of supporting healthcare innovation to save lives,” said Glenda Gray, President and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, which is funding the project with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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