A COVID-19 vaccine trial program began in South Africa last week — the first for the African continent — as the nation’s coronavirus case count topped 138,000.
Shabir Madhi, a Wits vaccinology professor, told a virtual news conference, “We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 COVID-19 vaccine trial,” a week before vaccinations were set to begin.
South Africa has more coronavirus cases than any other country on the African continent.
“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.”
Madhi hopes the introduction of the vaccine will shorten the amount of time it takes for South Africa’s population to reach herd immunity, which will reduce overall vulnerability to the virus and curb the epidemic.