How Far Are We From Having The Vaccine Ready For Distribution?

Work is currently underway to get a vaccine for Covid-19 and many are hoping to have it ready to be shipped out by next year. However, when exactly will we get the vaccine after it's developed? Where is South Africa on the list?

Work is currently underway to get a vaccine for Covid-19 and many are hoping to have it ready to be shipped out by next year. However, when exactly will we get the vaccine after it's developed? Where is South Africa on the list?

eNCA examined the question of 'Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine first?' and reported, "With hundreds of potential COVID-19 vaccines in development and a handful on the horizon, many companies are optimistic about having a jab ready by the beginning of next year. But testing vaccine candidates as fast and safely as possible, is only the first step".

Virologist and founding director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), Professor Barry Schoub, said that there are 248 candidates for vaccines are currently being assessed while 49 of them are in clinical trials and 10 are in advanced clinical trials.

Advanced clinical trials is phase 3 and the final phase of the clinical trials.

On who will get the vaccine first, Schoub explains that frontline healthcare workers, elderly people, elderly people in old age care homes and people with comorbidities will probably be the first to get the vaccine in the country. Healthcare workers will be high up on the list but it also depends on how many vaccines are available and proritisation will have to take place in terms of need.

"These clinical trials will normally take quite a few months so we could expect that there would be some vaccine that would be available for licensing probably at the end of the year, beginning of next year," said Schoub.

Each vaccine has to go through every respective country's regulatory authority which for us is the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) who will assess the vaccine's efficacy and safety.

This means that even after the vaccine is developed, more steps will have to be taken before it's ready to be distributed which is predicted to be only in the middle of 2021.

Two billion vaccines have already been pre-ordered by higher income countries such as USA and UK. Concerns then came that other countries would be left behind. This is where COVAX comes in. COVAX is an initiative launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with other organisations working together with it and is there to enable middle and low income countries access to the vaccine.

South Africa will purchase vaccines through COVAX and will also be negotiating directly with manufacturers to get vaccines into the country.

"There are a lot of checks and balances and I don't think that the ability or facility or availability for corruption is going to be that great," explained Schoub when asked about the possibility of vaccines turning up on the black market.

The deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at UCT’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, said, "It is very important for South Africa to participate [in vaccine trials] because we can contribute to the global cause, and it helps scientists understand how South Africans will respond to these [vaccine] candidates".

This would give the country an opportunity to investigate any safety concerns and to claim the vaccines once they're found to be effective and ready to be rolled out, said Bekker.

The first participants in South Africa's first clinical trial for a vaccine against COVID-19 were vaccinated at the end of June. 

 

 

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