A million people in SA infected with Covid-19, expert says

lead vaccine trial researcher Professor Shabir Madhi. Image: Screenshot/YouTube

Once 42 cases of Covid-19 has been identified in vaccine trial participants, experts will be able to unblind the study and analyse the data, to see if the vaccine works.

As South Africa gears up to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, lead vaccine trial researcher Professor Shabir Madhi disclosed some interesting revelations in a MyHealthTV webinar recently. 

According to TimesLIVE, Madhi emphasised the grave underestimation of the number of Covid-19 cases. According to him, it is likely there are one million people in South Africa with the virus, among them many asymptomatic cases. 

This compounded with the country’s comparatively low testing rates, and the fact that we’ve only just experienced our first wave of infections, means citizens must brace themselves for worse news further down the line. 

Madhi said in an interview with the University of the Witwatersrand on Tuesday that it would probably be another two months before Gauteng reaches its peak of infections, and probably another month for the Western Cape. 

The most effective way to slow down the rate of infection is for every citizen to adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions, Madhi said in the webinar. 

He also disclosed that smoking proved less hazardous than drinking when it came to the availability of hospital beds – a vital response as infections continue to spread. 

In terms of setting up vaccine trials, Madhi told Wits that he hoped to start the study within the next few weeks, and enrol the roughly 2,000 people taking part in the study in the next eight weeks. He hopes those taking part in the study are enrolled by mid-August. Each of them will be followed up on for at least 12 months, to study the safety of the vaccine.

The study is to take place at six to eight different centres across Gauteng, and possibly the Western Cape. 

Once 42 cases of Covid-19 has been identified in participants, Madhi explained that they will be able to unblind the study and analyse the data, to see if the vaccine works. It is not yet clear how long it will take to get to 42 cases, but suspects numbers will be accrued by October/November. 

He added that an answer can be expected by November this year. 

(Compiled by Nica Richards)

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