Africa could have a Covid-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 if human trials underway in South Africa succeed, says Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at University of Witwatersrand who is leading the local trial.
Speaking to Reuters, Madhi said that the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 experimental vaccine is one of 19 being tested on humans globally. The vaccine is also being tested in Brazil by Oxford University scientists.
“A vaccine could be made commercial as early as the beginning of next year,” said Madhi
“But it is completely dependent on the results of clinical trials,” he said, cautioning that out of the 19 potential vaccines being tested, the most positive outcome would be if just two succeed.
Madhi said that trials will depend on 2,000 volunteers aged 18-65 years who will be monitored for 12 months after vaccination to asses its efficacy.
He added that early results could be seen by November or December.
“The timing of an efficacy read-out depends on when we have approximately 42 Covid-19 cases at least one month after vaccination,” he said.
Drug company Cipla was granted a license to manufacture and distribute the antiviral medicine, Remdesivir, in 127 countries, including South Africa, following an agreement with Gilead Sciences.
Cipla South Africa chief executive officer, Paul Miller said that Remdesivir, a drug that has been shown reduce the time to recovery of Covid-19 patients, was expected to be available in the country soon.
Cipla has earmarked an initial batch of 35,000 vials for the country, which is anticipated to arrive in the week of 20 July.
However, Remdesivir has not yet been registered by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra), which means it needs to be imported using a section 21 exemption to the Medicines and Related Substances Act.
Section 21 exemptions are used for medicines that have not been thoroughly investigated by Sahpra, but have been approved by regulators in other countries.
On Thursday (9 July), health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced 238,339 total cases of coronavirus in South Africa, following a record 24-hour surge of 13,674 new cases.
The minister announced 129 new Covid-19 related deaths, taking the total to 3,720 casualties following a high of 192 deaths on Tuesday, while the minister pointed to 113,061 recoveries to date.
A total of two million tests have been conducted, with 56,170 tests conducted over the past 24 hours, Dr Mkhize said.