Wits clinicians participate in Covid-19 vaccine trial

Johannesburg – Wits University clinicians in the Faculty of Health Sciences have participated in the current Covid-19 vaccine trial at the Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit (RMPRU) at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital.

  Wits vaccinology Professor Shabir Madhi, leader of the vaccine trial, said the vaccines do not necessarily work similarly in different populations, and data applicable to the local context is needed. 

  “Some past vaccines have been effective in high-income settings, but in low and middle-income settings were found less effective, and sometimes ineffective. We have to undertake the clinical evaluation during the start of the programme. Waiting for results from other studies would just lead to a lag, in terms of the timing when vaccines would be introduced to South Africa and other low and middle-income countries,” Madhi said.  

  Wits Professor Martin Veller, Dr June Fabian and Professor Francois Venter were vaccinated after being screened and found eligible at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital.

  Dr Fabian, a nephrologist and research director at the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre, said it was about supporting local scientists to enable them to do world-class science. 

  HIV clinician Professor Venter, divisional director of Ezintsha at the institution, said he had enough confidence in the science to put himself on the line to help the country find a vaccine.

  Wits Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Surgery, Veller said Africa needs to be involved in vaccine development, so there is a moral obligation for the continent to be able to access the vaccine once it is available.  “We need to get a trial done quickly, anyone who can enrol, and especially us in the healthcare fraternity who understand the risks, should do so.”

  Dr Aslam Dasoo, convener of the Progressive Health Forum said the vaccine trial is part of a multi-centre global effort to meet the greatest threat to humanity in living memory. 

  “For those who have expressed anxiety at the trial being conducted here, my enrolment, together with other medical scientists, should provide comfort that the trial is safe. More importantly, it is a signal that South Africa is not only at the forefront of this scientific effort, but also makes it more likely that the people of our continent will benefit from a future vaccine,” Dasoo said.

  Volunteers who would like to participate in the trial can send an email to vidacov19@rmpru.co.za. They may also call 064 850 0744, Joburg inner-city; 072 055 1249, Soweto, and 074 800 7772, Tshwane. 

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