Homegrown Heroes
Drum English|9 July 2020
Drum speaks to two volunteers in the Covid-19 vaccine trial and the professor heading the team in Africa
Duenna Mambana And Lesego Seokwang

The sight of a hypodermic needle hovering over your skin is enough to give any­ one cold shivers, but what if you knew it contained a brand­new vaccine that hasn’t been tested on humans before? That’s a whole other level of scary.

But when Nosisi Ngqiba heard local scientists needed volunteers to take part in Africa’s first clinical trial to test a potential Covid­-19 vaccine, she didn’t hesitate. For months the Soweto gogo had been itching to do something to help fight the virus and now she finally had her chance.

Nosisi (55), who’s a clean­ ing staff supervisor at a Joburg rehab centre, is in good spirits as she chats to us just days after having the jab at a secret location in Gauteng.

“The only side­effect I’ve experienced so far is pain in my thigh muscles, otherwise I’ve been okay,” she says.

But what she’s had to put up with are nosy neighbours who think she might be a potential health hazard.

“There’s even gossip that I’ll end up contracting the virus but I don’t care,” says Nosisi who’s among 2 000 volunteers who signed up for the trial spearheaded by Wits University.

“My children know how passionate I’ve been about ridding our country of the virus. I’m just an ordinary citizen but I wanted to make a difference – even if it’s in a small way,” she says.

But isn’t she even a little scared know­ ing she’s been injected with an untested vaccine? “Call me naive, but I don’t believe government would intentionally ex­pose people to something that can potentially kill them,” she says.

“Everyone has their own opinions but I choose to align myself with those trying to find solutions right now.”

NOSISI is in good hands. The trial is overseen by Professor Shabir Madhi of Wits Univer­sity’s vaccinology unit, an award­winning scientist who’s been at the forefront of many groundbreaking vaccine studies.

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