JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Africa’s first participation in a COVID-19 vaccine trial began Wednesday when nervous volunteers received injections, while authorities said the continent of 1.3 billion people cannot be left behind.
The large-scale trial of the vaccine developed at the University of Oxford in Great Britain is being carried out in South Africa, Great Britain and Brazil. South Africa has nearly a third of Africa’s confirmed cases with more than 106,000, including more than 2,100 deaths. The country reported its highest death toll on a day of 111 on Tuesday night.
“I feel a little scared, but I want to know what’s going on with this vaccine so I can tell my friends and others what’s going on with the study,” said one of the vaccine trial volunteers, Junior Mhlongo, in Johannesburg. .
The African continent now has nearly 325,000 cases as countries loosen restrictions under economic pressure from citizens who say they have to feed their families. The shortage of test materials and medical supplies remains a problem as Africa could become the world’s next hot spot.
The pandemic was delayed in Africa “but it is accelerating very rapidly,” the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Africa, John Nkengasong, said Wednesday, with a sharp increase in the number of cases and deaths.
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“Unless we act now, Africa is at risk of being left behind with the global vaccine,” he warned in a continental discussion, urging that local manufacturing and scientific expertise play a key role.
Cameroon, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa have highly developed clinical trial capacities, said Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the South African ministerial advisory committee for COVID-19.
Many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa also have clinical trial capacity, said Daniel Bausch, director of the UK’s Rapid Public Health Support Team.
“Not only do we need, but we are able to participate” as the world runs for a vaccine, said South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.
African leaders have openly expressed that the continent has been affected by intense global competition for medical supplies in this pandemic, as well as by what the head of Africa of the World Health Organization, Matshidiso Moeti, called the “distortion of the global market for key items. “
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged that the initial supply of any COVID-19 vaccine be deployed where it is most needed, rather than based on “ability to pay.”
Tedros also announced that as of this week, the 54 countries in Africa now have the laboratory capacity to detect the coronavirus.
In February, only two African nations could analyze the virus. The first case of virus from the continent was reported on February 14.