The government has been working on a Covid-19 vaccination plan, with the hopes of producing the vaccine locally. In a media address on Monday Morning, Minister Blade Nzimande gave updates about the progress that the Department of Science and Innovation has been making with the vaccine.
The Department of Science and Innovation has been working with the government in order to develop the vaccination plan.
"Government, through the Department of Science and Innovation, owns a 47,5% stake in Biovac, a bio-pharmaceutical company, which is a joint venture with the private sector." said Minister Blade Nzimande.
There are currently two studies that are focused on the vaccine.
"The first is a study on plant-based manufacturing of antibodies for COVID-19, which aims to facilitate the rapid development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, therapeutic antibodies and diagnostic reagents utilising various expression platforms for advancing the production of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates and reagents."
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has reached an agreement with Kentucky Biological Products (KBP) as a potential manufacturer of the vaccine which is made using tobacco plants. A total of investment of R2,4 million has been invested into the initiative.
The second study is a ChAdOx1-nCOV-19 vaccine trial. This vaccine trial is in partnership with the South African Medical Research Council.
The Department of Science and Innovation is co-funding the study, led by the University of the Witwatersand.
The study is aimed at ensuring that the vaccine is safe and efficient for all Covid-19 vaccine candidates (ChAdOx1 SARS-CoV-2) living in South Africa.
The study will also aim to discover the effectiveness of the vaccine in South African adults living without HIV, as well as the vaccine's effects on the immune system of adults living with HIV.
The vaccine was developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca at the Oxford University Jenner Institute. Vaccine trials are currently happening in a number of countries, including South Africa, Brazil, USA, UK, Australia and Europe.
"Preliminary results indicate that this vaccine could reduce virus transmission based on an observed reduction in asymptomatic infections.
"The results indicate that the vaccine is at least 62% effective when given in two full-strength doses, compared to the 94% percent efficacy achieved by Pfizer and Moderna candidate vaccines." said Minister Nzimande.
Although the Oxford vaccine is not as effective as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it has been promoted as the most suitable vaccine for developing countries.
The vaccine costs less, compared to other Covid-19 vaccines, it's easy to transport, easy to store and distribute.
"This vaccine is currently being considered for approval by the European Medicines Agency. Approval has been granted by the regulatory authorities in the UK, India, Mexico, Bangladesh and Argentina. This initiative is funded to the amount of R4,5 million." said Nzimande.