With South Africa recently becoming one of the Top 20 countries in the world as far as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections go, the announcement on Tuesday, 23 June 2020 by the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg (South Africa) provides some light at the end of the tunnel. Popularly known as Wits University, the institution announced that it is set to commence with its first COVID-19 vaccine trial. Participants are expected to be enrolled by the end of the week.

In South Africa, at least 100,000 people have already tested positive COVID-19 and more than 2,000 have passed away from the virus during 2020. Added to this, by 17 June 2020, South Africa contributed to 30% of all diagnosed COVID-19 cases and 23% of all COVID-19 deaths on the African continent.

β€œThis is a landmark moment for South Africa and Africa at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. 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. We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 COVID-19 vaccine trial last week and the first participants will be vaccinated this week,” said Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University and Director of the South Africa Medical Research Council Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit at Wits University.

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According to the South African university, the South African COVID-19 vaccine study was subject to rigorous review and has been approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand.

β€œWits University identified vaccinology as a key institutional flagship project in 2016. Vaccines are amongst the most powerful tools to mitigate life-threatening diseases. Without a vaccine against Covid-19, there will likely be ongoing contagion, causing severe illness and death. Wits is committed to developing a vaccine to save lives in collaboration with the University of Oxford,” said Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, Vice Principal and Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Postgraduate Affairs at Wits University.

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