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Oxford/AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine best suited for Africa - Wits' Madhi

The first peer-reviewed results of phase 3 human trials show that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate has an acceptable safety profile and is effective against symptomatic COVID-19.

A medical worker addresses some of the first South African Oxford vaccine trialists waiting ahead of the clinical trial for a potential vaccine against COVID-19 at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto on 24 June 2020. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - The latest COVID-19 vaccine proven to be safe and effective is best suited to be deployed in Africa.

That's the word from Wits University professor Shabir Madhi, who leads the clinical trial of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate locally.

He's analysed the study's peer-reviewed findings published in the scientific journal, Lancet, on Tuesday.

The first peer-reviewed results of phase 3 human trials show that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine candidate has an acceptable safety profile and is effective against symptomatic COVID-19.

Researchers presented a pooled analysis of the vaccine against the coronavirus across two different dose regimens, resulting in an average efficacy of just over 70%.

The vaccine's efficacy against COVID-19 is 62% in participants who received two full doses and 90% for those first given a half, and then a full dose.

Professor Madhi, at Wits University's Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit, explains: "The Astrazeneca vaccine can also be stored at temperatures that are available in our facilities of between 2°C to 8°C, it has a long shelf life of up to about six months..."

Madhi also factors in the affordability and availability of the vaccine.

AstraZeneca is set to produce 200 million doses by the end of this year and 3 billion by the end of 2021.

On when South Africa will get a COVID-19 vaccine, Madhi said that that largely depended on government.

"In terms of its engagement, either through the COVID facility as well as bilateral agreements that it needs to enter into with AstraZeneca or any other manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines that have been proven to be safe and efficacious."

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