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(2 Jul 2020) A group of protesters gathered on Wednesday outside the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg to protest against Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine trial.
Protesters burned face masks, sang and danced and carried banners reading "We not guinea pigs… No safe vaccine."
The trial that began last week in Johannesburg is part of one already underway in Britain of the vaccine developed at the University of Oxford. Some 2,000 volunteers in South Africa are expected to take part.
It’s important that vaccines be tested in Africa to see how they perform in the local context, said a professor of vaccinology and leader of the new COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa on Sunday.
But the small band of demonstrators who gathered Wednesday at the University of the Witwatersrand, where the trial is based, reflect long-running fears among some in Africa over testing drugs on people who don’t understand the risks.
"It's a form of a violation of a person's body, it's a form of rape," said Sean Goss a protester. "It's not acceptable."
Members of the Traditional Healers Organisation also came out in support of the protest and wanting their traditional medicines to be given a chance in fighting COVID-19.
"We feel that our government is not supporting traditional medicine, is also not recognising the work of traditional healers, because there are many things that there are many, many medicines that traditional healers could produce that could help with the COVID-19," said Seloane Mokgatsi of the Traditional Healers Organisation.
South Africa now has more than 151,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, the most on the African continent. Africa overall has more than 400,000 cases.
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