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South Africa started a vaccine trial for the coronavirus on Wednesday, the first such study to take place in Africa.
The trial of the vaccine - ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 - developed at the University of Oxford in the U.K. is being conducted in South Africa, Britain and Brazil. Oxford is collaborating with Wits University in Johannesburg to conduct the trial.
“This is a landmark moment for South Africa and Africa at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we enter winter in South Africa and pressure increases on public hospitals, now more than ever we need a vaccine to prevent infection by Covid-19,” said Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at Wits University.
“We began screening participants for the South African Oxford 1 Covid-19 vaccine trial last week and the first participants will be vaccinated this week," he said, according to Wits.
South Africa has nearly one-third of Africa's confirmed cases with more than 106,000, including more than 2,100 deaths. The country late Tuesday reported its biggest one-day death toll of 111.
“I feel a little bit scared but I want to know what is going on with this vaccine so that I can tell my friends and others what is going on with the study," one of the vaccine trial volunteers, Junior Mhlongo, said 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.
Shortages of testing materials and medical supplies remain a problem as Africa could become the world's next hot spot for the virus spread.
The pandemic was delayed in Africa but the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expect a steep increase in the number of cases and deaths.
African leaders have been outspoken about the continent being elbowed out in the intense global competition for medical supplies in this pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also announced that as of this week, all 54 of Africa's countries now have the lab capacity to test for the coronavirus.
In February, just two African nations could test for the virus.
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