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Yes, Africa's first Covid-19 vaccine trial has started in South Africa

“First African Covid-19 vaccine trial kicks off on SA soil,” reads the headline of a 23 June 2020 article on HeraldLive

The article says the “first participants from across Africa will be vaccinated this week” in a South African trial.

South African news organisations eNCA and Sowetan Live have also reported the news.

Given the scale of the pandemic, there has naturally been a lot of interest in a vaccine for Covid-19, and a lot of false information as well

Facebook has flagged the HeraldLive article and others like it as possibly false. But they are true. 

Vaccine trials in UK, Brazil and South Africa

A vaccine is a biological preparation that helps the body’s immune system recognise and fight viruses and bacteria.

The Covid-19 vaccine in question is known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. It was developed by the Jenner Institute in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the UK’s University of Oxford

It was first evaluated in the UK, and clinical trials have now begun in Brazil and South Africa.

The South African trial is being led by Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Wits University in Johannesburg. 

Two thousand adults have volunteered to take part in the trial. By vaccinating volunteers with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, scientists hope to make the human body recognise and develop an immune response to Covid-19, the university said a 23 June statement

Madhi said South Africa’s involvement in the trial was important because a vaccine that worked in one country or setting might have different results elsewhere. 

“We have our own unique circumstances in the African context which are dissimilar to what might exist in the United Kingdom, for example.” 

Stages in vaccine development

There are six basic stages in developing a vaccine, from the exploratory and clinical development phases to regulatory approval and manufacturing.

Many potential vaccines are being developed but, according to the World Health Organization, no operational vaccines for Covid-19 are available yet.

In a 22 June update, the WHO said 13 different candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation, a three-phase process. Another 129 candidate vaccines across the world were in the preclinical evaluation stage. 

The only candidate vaccine the WHO listed as being trialled in Africa was ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. – Africa Check


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