South Africa will begin a coronavirus vaccine trial on Wednesday, the first such test on the continent, with its 2,000 volunteers planned to include some living with HIV.
The trial will begin at three sites in the country’s most populated province, Gauteng, and include 50 volunteers who have HIV, said study leader Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, in a briefing with reporters. The vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca Plc, is already undergoing human tests in the U.K. with separate studies slated to begin in Brazil and the U.S.
Along with one of the fastest-growing coronavirus epidemics, South Africa has the world’s largest HIV-infected population with about 7 million patients. HIV attacks the human immune system, and the test will help ensure that the country has access to shots that will be safe and appropriate for South Africans, said Helen Rees, chair of the Health Products Regulatory Authority.
“We really need to have a vaccine that’s tried and tested throughout the world, in all populations,” she said in the briefing. Participation in trials also smooths the way to vaccine access, because of the country’s investment in making sure it works, she said.
Coronavirus cases have surged to more than 100,000 with almost 2,000 deaths, while the country’s lockdown was eased on June 1. The government counts at least 29 hot spots throughout the nation, which had about a third of Africa’s confirmed Covid cases and almost a quarter of the continent’s deaths as of June 17.
Worldwide, more than 9 million people have been infected with the coronavirus, with more than 470,000 dead.
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