Top SA Scientists Join the Race to Develop COVID-19 Vaccine


According to IOL, 30 of South Africa’s top scientists, researchers, and clinicians are part of a race to save the world by developing a COVID-19 vaccine. The South African team and teams from nine other countries are working together to develop the vaccine.

The team was chosen from 8 South African medical schools and they are led by Prof. Helen Rees and Dr. Jeremy Nel. This team forms part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) landmark Public Health Solidarity Trial.

WHO defines the Solidarity Trial as “an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the World Health Organization and partners. The Solidarity trial will compare four treatment options against a standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19. By enrolling patients in multiple countries, the Solidarity trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs slow disease progression or improve survival. Other drugs can be added based on emerging evidence.”

In an interview with IOL, Dr. Nel said, “South Africa was a key member of the international initiative because of its experience with HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis. We don’t really know yet what the effect of HIV and COVID-19 will be together. South Africa offers an opportunity to work that out. We are also a country in Africa, and there is not a lot of data that comes from African countries usually.”

Prof. Rees agreed and said, “Many of our researchers from the solidarity trial are infectious disease specialists who know how to work in communities and know how to follow up with (infected) people because they have been doing it for years during their work with HIV.”

This clinical trial comprises of five treatment stages, one is standard of care, where volunteer COVID-19 patients will receive basic medical care and support. The other four stages will include a randomised treatment regime, in which different drugs will be used.

The South African team is also part of the Crown Coronation Study which evaluates drugs that can prevent infections in health-care workers. The study also monitors the effect COVID-19 has on patients that was hospitalised due to pneumonia and the effect it has on pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Prof. Rees said there is still so much more they need to find out about COVID-19. “That’s why the surveillance for COVID-19 is important; we have to monitor what is happening in communities continuously in terms of how the outbreak is evolving.”

According to the reports, it is vital for the SA lockdown to succeed so that researchers have enough time to develop a vaccine and ultimately curb the spread of COVID-19.


  1. Alot of research followed by quite a number of tests still needs to be done, but we are very optimistic of a breakthrough in the near future. Stay safe and stay indoors.

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