Giving Compass’ Take:
• Professor Shabir Madhi speaks with Global Citizen about the importance of African countries participating in COVID-19 vaccine trials.
• What will it take to get vaccines to those in marginalized communities? How can donors help?
The number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa is soaring at such a rate that President Cyril Ramaphosa warned in July of a COVID-19 storm “far fiercer and more destructive than any we have known before.”
This means that developing an effective vaccine is crucial, and not just to stop the spread of coronavirus. It will also allow people who are at the greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 — such the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions — to live more freely than the current health recommendations allow.
There are 30 vaccines that are being evaluated in humans, and 29 of these evaluations are in high-income countries. South Africa is the only African country [to be testing a COVID-19 vaccine].
We have to determine how the vaccine will work in the African context. The UK and South Africa are worlds apart, with different dynamics.
What we’re seeing about COVID-19 [in South Africa] is that more than 90% of its transmission is in urban areas, due to higher density of people in close contact.
South Africa also has [high rates] of co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity, and these can influence how well the vaccine works — and we might find a different result in South Africa due to the nature of the settings under which we’re evaluating the vaccine.
Unless we work out how the vaccine performs in our settings, we’ll be in the dark.
Oxford University said the initial response to the vaccine is promising. People were able to produce antibodies. Additionally, the antibodies quadrupled after they were given a second dose of the vaccine. Antibodies are really important in whether a vaccine will work or not.
However, there is still a long way ahead before a vaccine becomes available to low- and middle-income countries.
Read the full conversation about COVID-19 vaccine trials with Prof. Shabir Madhi at Global Citizen.
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