Extensive testing of the coronavirus vaccine began Wednesday in South Africa, making it the first African country to be involved in such research.
The University of Oxford in Britain is conducting vaccine trials in South Africa, Britain and Brazil. The university, the Oxford Jenner Institute and the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg are collaborating in the South African part of the experiment, the statement said.
The first participants in the study were tested last week and will be vaccinated this week, said Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand who leads the South African trials.
“This is a significant moment for South Africa and Africa at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. “When we enter South Africa in the winter and the pressure on public hospitals increases, we now need the Covid-19 vaccine more than ever,” Madhi said in a statement.
By last week, South Africa had 30 percent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23 percent of deaths on the African continent. This week, the country also recorded the biggest one-day increase in mortality from COVID-19 from 111 on Tuesday.
In total, Africa counted nearly 325,000 cases. Countries have begun lifting coronavirus restrictions, and people have said they could not feed their families while in prison.
Some public experts predict that the continent will become the next focus of the pandemic.
The head of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, said Wednesday that the pandemic was delayed in Africa “but is accelerating rapidly,” the Associated Press reported.
“If we do not act now, Africa threatens to remain a global vaccine,” he said.
All 54 African countries now have laboratory capacity to test for coronavirus, compared to February when only two were able to test, the accordion was given AP.
African leaders demanded more medical supplies, saying they were left out of competition during the pandemic. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the initial supply of the vaccine should be distributed where it is needed, and not on the basis of “the country’s ability to pay”.
Oxford and AstraZeneca University are expected to begin the 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.