Go back

South Africa begins its first coronavirus vaccine trial


Vaccine also being tested in Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States

South Africa has embarked on its first clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine. The first volunteers will be injected this week, according to a University of the Witwatersrand announcement on 23 June. 

The trial is a collaboration between Wits, the South African Medical Research Council and the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Shabir Madhi, the director of the SAMRC Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, will lead the South African trial. 

The trial is of a vaccine candidate called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 developed by Oxford’s Jenner Institute. It is concurrently being tested in the UK and Brazil, with a large US trial planned.

The South African study will be an early phase 2 study of safety and efficacy. “We want to see if the vaccine works in South African populations,” Madhi said. The trial will test the vaccine in both HIV positive and HIV negative people, to see if there are differences between the groups. 

Helen Rees, head of the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, said it is crucial that vaccine candidates are tested in the Southern and Northern hemispheres at the same time.

“This allows evaluation of the efficacy and safety of candidate vaccines to be assessed in a global context, failing which the introduction of many life-saving vaccines into public immunisation programmes for low-middle income countries frequently lags behind those in high-income countries,” said Rees in a statement.