Zimbabwe Joins Search for COVID-19 Vaccine

Zimbabwe’s international profile recently received a major lift after it was allowed to join 100 other countries participating in the ongoing Covid-19 clinical trial.

The Solidarity Trial, a multinational test of possible treatment options is being coordinated by the World Health Organisation.

Zimbabwe joins other countries, which have signed up to widen the testing sample size for four possible vaccines to the pandemic. This was revealed at yesterday’s update between Health and Child Care Minister Dr Obadiah Moyo and a team of scientists whose insights are informing the country’s Covid-19 response.

National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Director Professor Nicholas Midzi said the trial was meant to expedite the finding of a vaccine.

“Solidarity trial is an international clinical trial, where countries will be administering candidate treatments to patients. The findings will be collated with what other countries have observed; this will create a wider sample from which a decision on the safety and efficacy of possible vaccines can be made,” Professor Midzi said.

Zimbabwe’s acceptance means when the ultimate decision is made the applicability of the vaccine to our local environment would have been considered as a variable.

Experts believe it will help bring a solution that is proven to work within our context.

“The Solidarity Trial will compare four treatment candidates against standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against Covid-19. By enrolling patients in multiple countries, the Solidarity Trial aims to rapidly discover whether any of the drugs are useful in treating or managing Covid-19 symptoms,” Prof Midzi said.

Treatment options under this trial include Remdesivir, which was previously tested as an Ebola treatment, Lopinavir or Ritonavir a licensed treatment for HIV, Interferon beta-1a, which is used to treat multiple sclerosis as well as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine used to treat malaria and rheumatology conditions respectively.

All these treatments have been tested in China and Europe, but need randomised tests in other environments.

Zimbabwe’s participation in the search for a vaccine is important, as it is believed there may be a possibility of a spike in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in winter.

“Our mathematical modelling, which we use to map scenarios show that we may see an increase in Covid-19 cases this winter,” Prof Midzi said.

Although such projections are not cast in stone they are a formula based approach applicable in times of a new pandemic like Covid-19 and are used to get an idea of how much the disease may spread.

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