South Africa could receive a working COVID-19 vaccine as early as the first quarter of 2021, depending on the result of clinical trials, says Professor Shabir Madhi, the principal investigator of the South African VIDA vaccine trial at Wits University.

Speaking in a panel during a World Health Organization media briefing on Thursday [July 9], Professor Madhi said there is still much to do, but there is a timeline for the vaccine.

“With regard to the timelines, I think it is possible to have a COVID-19 vaccine that we’re working on as early as the first quarter of next year.”

The South African Ox1Cov-19 Vaccine VIDA-Trial is in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute. It aims to find a vaccine that will prevent SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The study will cost approximately R150-million to conduct.

The vaccine candidate is currently in clinical trials throughout the country, involving 2000 people between 18-65 years of age. The trial began in late June. Members in the trial will be monitored for 12 months after receiving the vaccine. Researchers may have early results by November or December.

The potential vaccine is also being tested in the United Kingdom, Brazil and will soon begin trials in the United States.

Madhi cautions that not every vaccine currently under trial will succeed.

“Only about 10% of vaccines that go into clinical trials are eventually licensed for use. Right now there are approximately 200 vaccines that are being developed for COVID-19. It would be a huge accomplishment if, over the next 12 to 18 months, we are successful showing that even one out of every 20 (5%) of the vaccines that go into human studies are safe and provide some protection against COVID-19,” reads a statement on the Wits website.

Madhi advises that in the meantime, the best course of action is to focus on social distancing and health measures to prevent and manage the spread of the virus.

“By adherence to interventions, wearing of face masks, physical distancing, avoiding overcrowded spaces. That is the current and immediate terms of focus, it’s not about the vaccine. The vaccine needs to take place, but we need to manage what is upon us right now and that is the surging cases we are seeing across the African continent.”

According to WHO, there are currently 21 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 139 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation.

The current total number of confirmed cases in the country is 238 339, the total number of deaths is 3 720 and total number of recoveries is 113 061. We have also reached a milestone of having completed over two million tests for Coronavirus.

Picture: Pixabay

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