Oxford vaccine trial faces ‘real test’ in South Africa

With South Africa experiencing a peak in covid-19 cases, a vaccine from Oxford University is currently being testing in the middle of a Corona-virus storm in the country, where infections are climbing at a rapid rate.

The initial results for the Oxford vaccine in other countries like the UK have been promising, but researchers say the real test for the experimental vaccine will come in South Africa.

Speaking in an interview with CNN, trial head for the Oxford vaccine study in South Africa professor Shabir Madhi said that the trial might fail – not because the vaccine is ineffective but because the force of exposure is so big that it presents new challenges.

“This is really going to test the mettle of this vaccine. We could experience multiple waves of an outbreak for the next two to three years. So the thing that is probably going to break the back of this pandemic at the end of the day – not just in South Africa, but globally – is a vaccine.”

One of the challenges faced by Madhi’s team is that where scientists are trying to enroll 2,000 participants in the middle of the Covid-19 and they had difficulties finding the required 2000 negative volunteers.

South Africa is expected to release its vaccine trial results in November.The University of Oxford says that their coronavirus vaccine has shown promising results in early human testing.

“If this vaccine works under these circumstances in South Africa, then this vaccine will work anywhere.”

Professor Shabir Madhi, trial head for the Oxford vaccine study in South Africa, added that he pushed for South Africa’s inclusion, partly to counter “vaccine nationalism”, which gives wealthy countries privileged access to new drugs.

According to World Health Organisation, about 160 coronavirus vaccines are in various stages of development around the world.

South Africa is facing a surge in coronavirus cases since it eased its strict lockdown measures on 1 June – which included army-enforced curfews, a clampdown on travel and bans on alcohol and tobacco sales.

The number of Covid-19 cases in SA has risen to nearly 400,000 with a recovery rate of 58%“, while the country has the fifth most cases globally, its mortality rate of 90 per 1 million of the population ranks 44th.