'I want doctors to learn from me': Soweto man first to take Covid-19 trial jab

24 June 2020 - 13:34 By Graeme Hosken
Junior Mhlongo is the first South African to be injected as part of a potential vaccine trial for Covid-19.
Junior Mhlongo is the first South African to be injected as part of a potential vaccine trial for Covid-19.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

The first South African citizen has just taken part in an international Covid-19 vaccination trial.

Junior Mhlongo, 24, of Soweto has just been injected with what South African medical scientists and vaccinologists hope will stop the global spread of Covid-19. Two thousand South Africans are taking part in the study.

Mhlongo said he was excited to be taking part in history. “I want to learn about the virus. I want doctors to be able to learn from me to help others.

“This is important. I am doing it to help. Not for any other reason,” he said, speaking moments after receiving an injection at an undisclosed Gauteng medical facility.

Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at Wits university and director of the SA Medical Research Council's vaccines and infectious diseases analytics research unit, said it was an exciting moment.

“I won't lie, this has been keeping me up at night. It's the safety of this trial that is the most important thing.”

On Tuesday, TimesLIVE reported that in addition to the SA cohort, 5,000 Brazilians are enrolled, and in earlier phases of the trial, after the vaccine was developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute, 4,000 Britons were enrolled and plans for an additional 10,000 participants are under way. An even larger study (of the same vaccine) is planned for the US where up to 30,000 will be enrolled.

By vaccinating volunteers with ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, scientists hope to make the human body recognise and develop an immune response that will help stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from entering human cells and causing Covid-19.

All are intended to remain on the trial for a year.


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