Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/AP
Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/AP

Western Cape’s second site for Covid-19 vaccine trial set up at Tygerberg Hospital

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Aug 4, 2020

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Cape Town - The second Covid-19 vaccine trial site is expected to commence today at Tygerberg Hospital. There are now two sites in the Western Cape, with the other already active at Groote Schuur Hospital, and five sites in Gauteng.

South Africa announced in late June that the country would be joining the global community in the search for a Covid-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford and Oxford Jenner Institute.

Overseeing the trial sites, Scientific Co-ordinator at African Leadership Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise (ALIVE), Clare Cutland, said more than 1200 volunteers have been screened and 754 participants vaccinated in the trials so far. The sites are physically in the hospital grounds but run by research units affiliated to UCT and Stellenbosch University, she said.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said several Covid-19 vaccines were currently in phase three of clinical trials. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We all hope to have effective vaccines that help prevent people from infection. However, there is no silver bullet at the moment and there might never be. For now, stopping outbreaks comes down to the basics.”

This includes testing of suspected Covid cases, isolation and treatment of confirmed cases and track and tracing of close contacts for quarantine.

Chair in Social Security Systems Administration and Management Studies at Wits School of Governance, Alex van den Heever, said the country should not assume that there would be a vaccine before mid-2021.

“There are some possibilities that it could be earlier, but it is better to err on the side of caution for now,” he said.

Although the Western Cape is seeing a stabilisation in terms of reported cases and deaths, some other provinces are under substantial pressure.

“The high levels of infection relate principally to the opportunities for superspreading - workplaces, shopping centres, bulk transport and funerals. Good progress has been made in protecting some of these spaces, but the government appears to have some of its priorities wrong. Taxis were allowed to go to 100%, but failed dismally to enforce open windows. It banned alcohol and tobacco sales, but failed to curtail the number of funeral-goers."

Principal pathologist in the Medical Virology division at UCT and the National Health Laboratory Service, Marvin Hsiao, said key contributors to rising Covid-19 infections were that social distancing, face masks and hand hygiene have not been adequately implemented. “Pandemic response is primarily about citizens' commitment to each other’s wellness, trust in the government policies, policies implemented based on science and logic, and their ability to adapt to circumstances. The SA response was good in some categories but not in others.”

Cape Argus

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