Africa is ready to make a valuable contribution to the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, says Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.


Mkhize, who was speaking at the African Union’s Vaccine Summit on Wednesday, said because South Africa has the highest burden of COVID-19 on the continent, it is in the best position to lead efforts to find a vaccine.


The Health Minister believes that identifying and monitoring viral strains unique to Africa is a key element in finding a vaccine for COVID-19.


South Africa has the highest population of people living with HIV – a stand-out factor which may contribute to the body of knowledge during vaccine trials. Furthermore, multi-sectoral ministerial advisory committees have already been established – these groups could plan a critical role in assisting to recruit study participants and to motivate community members to vaccinate when the time comes.


The country has also used the COVID-19 outbreak to work together with Trade and Industry to strengthen local capabilities. In addition, by having to work through the testing kits and ventilator shortage, we have strengthened bilateral relations with key jurisdictions to secure distribution and imports


Mkhize said South Africa has highly developed clinical trial capabilities and is ready to assist those countries which need strengthening.


“We thank our South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of the Witwatersrand for their hard work reviewing and approving the study in a very short space of time. We also thank the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) which also worked speedily through its processes to approve the importation of the investigational vaccine for use in the trial,” Mkhize said.


He assured that vaccine trials will be conducted with the buy-in of participating communities.


“While we are excited about the development of the vaccine, we must continue to emphasize non-pharmaceutical interventions amongst our people and remind them that we are still a long way from having a vaccine we can administer to the wider population,” he said.