*The following press release was published by African Alliance on Monday 09 November 2020.
South Africa’s newest COVID-19 vaccine trial is another crucial step in ensuring a future vaccine works for South Africans and should be commended, says advocacy group the African Alliance and partner, the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group.
“Historically, Africa has had to wait too long to get medicines and vaccines that the Global North long took for granted for many reasons — including a lack of local data from Africa,” says Tian Johnson. Johnson is head of NGO, the African Alliance and founding member of the Vaccine Advocacy Resource Group that works to ensure that civil society and communities are meaningfully involved in vaccine research and development and access.
“Today, South African scientists’ leading role in COVID-19 vaccine research takes us a step closer in ensuring that history doesn’t repeat itself in this pandemic.”
The country’s latest and third vaccine trial, launched today, will test whether an experimental vaccine can protect people from contracting the new coronavirus or developing serious COVID-19 symptoms.
South Africa is now one of nine countries, including the United States, Argentina and Mexico, which will test the vaccine. The South African trial follows earlier studies in the US and Belgium that showed the jab was safe to use.
Importantly, the study — called the Ensemble trial — will include people most at risk of severe COVID-19 disease: Those over the age of 60 and people with underlying health conditions such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
The African Alliance commends researchers for taking this step.
“The Ensemble study’s decision to include those in our society most vulnerable to COVID-19 is a brave but necessary move, and one to be supported if we believe in making sure that those most vulnerable to the disease are included in the search for its solutions,” Johnson says.
But science cannot go it alone. The African Alliance and the VARG welcome South African researchers’ decision to ensure that each Ensemble clinical trial site has established community bodies to help oversee and guide the trial. This work builds on decades of successful partnerships between communities and HIV researchers in South Africa.
We look forward to working with researchers and communities to ensure that these strong and meaningful partnerships continue not only during COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials but also long after they stop.
“The world desperately needs effective vaccines and medicines to treat COVID-19, and the quest to develop these has pushed science to find new and faster ways of finding them,” Johnson says. “But in the rush to find effective solutions to COVID-19, we cannot afford to leave communities behind, and their involvement cannot be an afterthought for researchers.”
“As this landmark COVID-19 trial is launched, civil society now more than ever needs to be aware, strategic and unrelenting in how we hold our governments, researchers, regulators and the funders of research to account.”
Tian Johnson, Founder & Strategist, The African Alliance, +27734324069, [email protected]
Maaza Seyoum, Partnerships & Communications Lead, The African Alliance, [email protected]africanalliance.org.za