South Africa will carry out the continent's first COVID-19 vaccine trial next week, Oxford Jenner Institute said as the nation grapples with Africa's highest number of cases.
The vaccine is already being tested in Britain, where 4,000 participants signed up for the trial produced by the university leading the pilot.
Volunteers have also started being immunized with a separate United Kingdom coronavirus vaccine as part of a trial at Imperial College London.
Vaccine trials to start in South Africa, U.K.
South Africa has set about vaccinating 2,000 people with the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine. Fifty of the candidates have HIV.
"We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 COVID-19 vaccine trial last week," University of Witwatersrand (Wits) vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi told a virtual press conference. He added the first participants will be vaccinated this week.
Brazil is planning its own experiment in a mass trial of up to 30,000 people. The United States is preparing to develop another vaccine.
Witwatersrand University (Wits) is working with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute with the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine trial.
Meanwhile, about 300 people in the United Kingdom will get the vaccine at Imperial College London as part of a trial led by Prof. Robin Shattock and his colleagues.
Animal testing suggests the vaccine is safe and will trigger an effective immune response, BBC reported.
The trials are among many worldwide-roughly 120 vaccine programs that are underway. After this first test, further experiments involving 6,000 participants are scheduled for October.
The Imperial team expects that from early 2021. The vaccine will be administered in the U.K. and overseas.
COVID-19 continues to devastate South Africa
South African officials implemented a strict nationwide lockdown on March 27, Al Jazeera reported. Still, containment measures are gradually being phased out in recent weeks to allow businesses to pick up and limit the damage to an already ailing economy.
"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, describing the vaccine trial as a "landmark moment".
"Our scientific estimation is that 60 to 70 percent of our population may be infected by a coronavirus," the minister said, adding that hospitalization rates remained lower than anticipated.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize reiterated Madhi 's fears, warning that South Africa was experiencing a "devastating climate" predicted to peak "in the cold winter months."
In cooperation with the German development agency and carmaker Volkswagen (VW)-the largest German investment in South Africa- the new field hospital was built.
In the southern city of Port Elizabeth, a total of 3,300 beds were installed at a disused VW plant. Mkhize praised the collaboration between the public and private sectors and the health workers "fighting the virus."
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3,500 doctors and nurses around the world have contracted COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and at least 34 have succumbed to the respiratory disease.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3,500 doctors and nurses worldwide have contracted COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and at least 34 have succumbed to the respiratory disease.