All You Need To Know About The Covid-19 Vaccine
Forbes Africa|December - January 2021
The complex world of Covid-19 vaccine trials explained.
Simone Sribrath

Somewhere in the deep unexplored depths of Madagascar, an unknown herb is probably on its way to becoming a global panacea for the pandemic.

This is Africa, a continent ripe with possibilities, where you cannot rule out that a cure for Covid-19 could perhaps come from nature itself. Just like Madagascar, currently touting Artemisia Afra (umhlonyane in Nguni languages and previously used as an ingredient for treating malaria) as a potential cure for Covid-19, bigger economies like South Africa are also looking to the botanical world for answers. Its national Department of Basic Education has reassigned R15 million ($960,982) of its budget on Covid-19 interventions such as Artemisia. Nigeria has also made a move towards a more homeopathic approach, as a ministerial committee has been put in place to further examine the potential natural compounds hold in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the focus of this story is exploring humanity’s race to uncover a universal vaccine – or any cure – that can assuage a health crisis confronting the entire world.

Currently, there are over 60 possible vaccines the world over being put through the paces. Of these, only nine are in the third phase of trials. The road to finding a Covid-19 vaccine since the start of the pandemic this year has been long and arduous. For the layperson, desperate to see an effective vaccine come online soon, the deluge of news on vaccine trials can seem complex. This article will discern the facts around them.

In comparison to its European and American counterparts, Africa has seen a relatively lower rate of virus spread and a lower death rate. As of November 11, Africa accounted for 3.7% of the world’s total number of cases; and southern Africa the worst hit with over 800,000 cases.

Scientists are yet to definitively map out the effects of the Covid-19 virus and its ability to recur within individuals who have had it before. Fear of public spaces and physical interactions have become the norm. Face masks and sanitizing products have become staples in every handbag and car cubbyhole.

Put simply, a clinical trial is a series of phases within an experiment being conducted to test a new drug, type of therapy or new medical device. It also looks at the efficacy of pre-existing medical interventions in the treatment of numerous illnesses and different types of patients.

Clinical trials can be performed on both healthy and ill participants. There are a number of protocols and regulations that accompany a clinical trial to ensure that the well-being of the participant is maintained as far as possible. It ensures that the benefits of the medical intervention being tested outweigh the risks and each phase of a trial plays a part in testing this.

Clinical trials usually happen in four phases (see box). Before these phases occur, a preclinical test is done. Each phase needs to produce a favorable result in order for the next phase to be conducted. In order for a medical intervention to get to the stage of manufacturing and distribution, all four phases need to have occurred successfully. The success of each phase is measured by the number of medically adverse events that have occurred as a result of the medical intervention being tested. These adverse events include mild to serious medical side-effects that have occurred to the participants of the trial.

Dr Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, Director of Research at the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa (see interview in box on next page) explains how innovations made with expediting the clinical trials for the Covid-19 vaccine could reshape how clinical trials are done across the board. She has also been the lead on HPTN 084, an injectable form of an antiretroviral (ARV) used to prevent HIV in women in sub-Saharan Africa.

The frantic search for a Covid-19 vaccine is being closely watched by every country on earth. At the time of going to press mid-November, there were currently 51 trials between Phases I and III of the clinical trials (see boxes on following pages for more info). When they will be available to all is a question on everyone’s mind.

South Africa’s Health Minister, talking to FORBES AFRICA about vaccine manufacturers, says: “Collaboration across global institutions has led to the transfer of technology and therefore new developments and new discoveries in combating the pandemic.”

In an interview with Aspen Pharmacare CEO and founder, Stephen Saad, he highlights to FORBES AFRICA the need for efficient manufacturing and distribution channels for the vaccine, once it becomes available. Aspen recently partnered with Johnson & Johnson for their vaccine Ad26.COV2-S (now known as JNJ-78436735). This partnership will see the manufacturing and distribution capacity of Johnson & Johnson increase significantly.

WHAT GOES INTO A CLINICAL TRIAL?

Preclinical Phase

This phase within a study is most intensive and can often require the most amount of time and extensive research into possible cellular reactions between the intervention being investigated and the body’s immune response. This phase is often tested thoroughly with the use of animal test subjects before proceeding to Phase I.

Phase I

This initial phase is conducted on a relatively small number of participants (six-10). It allows scientists to closely study and examine any effects or interactions that the intervention being investigated has in human participants. This phase is used to determine the safety and tolerability elements that an intervention may have in treating human participants. Participants are closely watched for the possible occurrence and severity of any side-effects that may occur.

Phase II

The size of the participant pool could vary greatly here as the size is dependent on the type of illness being investigated (typically between 20-300 participants). In this phase, the dosage is often experimented with. This is done to successfully determine the dosage required for the intervention to be most effective and safe to administer. Different dosages of the intervention could produce different results. As such, multiple simulations of Phase II may occur for a single intervention, being tested within numerous populations of interest.

Phase III

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES AFRICAView All

‘Empowering Women And Youth Key To Unlocking Malawi's Economic Potential '

Early this year, at the inception of the Covid-19 pandemic, Malawi was also battling for democracy. When Lazarus Chakwera became President in June, his win was hailed as a victory for democracy and justice. Born in Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer, the philosophy and theology graduate leads a nine-party coalition, the Tonse Alliance. He spoke to FORBES AFRICA in this exclusive interview about taking on the reins during the pandemic and his plans for the country’s future.

5 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

REAPING REWARDS

In green Kigali, Viateur Ndahayo is adding his own aesthetic touch to the city with his booming flower business.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

AFRICAN Of The Year

NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA IS WELL-POSITIONED TO TAKE ON THE NEXT BIG ROLE, TRANSFORMING AFRICA AND NEGOTIATING ON THE WORLD STAGE.

10+ mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

Backpacks From The Sun And Bags From The Ocean

Salima Visram makes solar-powered backpacks for children in the rural depths of East Africa, funded by her $2 million-a-year online business selling eco-friendly handbags.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

Beyond The Blaze

With shrinking glaciers and raging fires, climate change is impacting the diverse ecosystem on Africa’s highest mountain in more ways than one.

4 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

What Next For The NHI?

There has been enough debate and deliberation around South Africa’s proposed National Health Insurance Bill for unified health coverage. Covid-19 has turned the spotlight on it again, and there’s more news expected in February 2021.

8 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

‘Think Big, Strategize And Then Get Your Hands Dirty For Results'

This year has passed by in a flash; the year can be characterized by its cricketing synonym 20/20. It will, unfortunately, remain a year etched in history, like 1918, for all the wrong reasons; when there has been abject realization that we only have the illusion of being in control of what is happening around us.

6 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

The Rise And Rise Of Tyler Perry

From “poor as hell” to billionaire: how Tyler Perry built an entertainment empire and changed show business forever.

10+ mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

The Year That Changed Everything

2020. Unexpected. Unprecedented. The year a virus tore through the core of our being, and assailed our health systems and the wellbeing of our economies. Its effects ricocheted through every street, every alley of South Africa. Forbes africa trained its lens on the new reality the year is leaving behind.

5 mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021

All You Need To Know About The Covid-19 Vaccine

The complex world of Covid-19 vaccine trials explained.

10+ mins read
Forbes Africa
December - January 2021
RELATED STORIES

Uncommon Dinosaurs

Southern Continents Reveal Uncommon Giants

10+ mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
December 2020

ZOISITE

A Massive Mineral Marked by Christmas- Like Color and Appeal

7 mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
December 2020

Pittsburgh's August Wilson African American Cultural Center

LOCATED IN THE HEART of downtown Pittsburgh, on Liberty Avenue close to Union Station and the David Lawrence Convention Center, the sleek and elegant but unpretentious August Wilson African American Cultural Center (awaacc) cannot fail to capture the eye and the imagination of anybody who is visiting Pittsburgh or, for that matter, of anybody who lives in the city.

2 mins read
World Literature Today
Autumn 2020

AFRICA

Bishop Stephen Masilela is the general presbyter for the COGOP in Africa. He is also a counselor and registered marriage officer and currently serves as president for Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Africa. He holds a diploma in Personnel Management and Training (IPM) from Bible Training Institute and is enrolled with the Gordon Conwell/COGOP Leader of Leaders Master’s Degree program and the Extension School of Ministry of Swaziland College of Theology for a theology degree. He is married to Sibongile and they are blessed with three children.

3 mins read
White Wing Messenger
October 2020

NICOLE PATTON-TERRY READING RESEARCHER

Nicole Patton-Terry loves helping kids learn to read. She is associate director of the Florida Center for Reading Research at the Florida State University. Patton-Terry works on teams with researchers, students, teachers, designers, parents, and community members. Together they study reading and develop tools that help children read.

6 mins read
Muse Science Magazine for Kids
October 2020

‘THE 24TH' IS A SOBERING HISTORY LESSON FOR TODAY

On Aug. 23, 1917, four months after the U.S. had entered World War I, the all-Black 3rd battalion of the U.S. Army’s 24th Infantry Regiment mutinied in Houston.

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #461

BEYONCÉ'S ‘BLACK IS KING' IS SUPREME BLACK ART

King Beyoncé’s new film takes you on a journey of Black art, music, history and fashion as the superstar transports you to Africa to tell the story of a young man in search of his crown, matched to epic songs she created while inspired by “The Lion King.”

3 mins read
AppleMagazine
AppleMagazine #458

BY THE SEAT OF OUR PANTS

My Africa Twin Adventure Sports was buried belly pan-deep in mud.

6 mins read
Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)
July - August 2020

Giant Loop Round the World Panniers and Pannier Mounts

PRODUCT REVIEW

3 mins read
Adventure Motorcycle (ADVMoto)
May-June 2020

Walk on The Wildside

Most visitors to Africa experience its wildlife from the safety of a Land Rover. But on a walking safari, things get real fast.

10+ mins read
Men's Journal
May - June 2020