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South Africans in vaccine trial hope 'to save the world'

Video Credit: Reuters - Politics
Published on September 10, 2020 - Duration: 02:35s

South Africans in vaccine trial hope 'to save the world'

Khensani Nkuna is a volunteer in AstraZeneca's experimental coronavirus vaccine trial in South Africa and she hopes to "save the world".

Colette Luke has the latest.

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South Africans in vaccine trial hope 'to save the world'

27-year-old Khensani Nkuna is a volunteer in AstraZeneca's experimental coronavirus vaccine trial in South Africa.

She is one of some 2000 volunteers in South Africa taking part in a trial that they hope will lead to a potential life-saving vaccine.

“I wanted to be part of the solution.

I wanted to save the world because this thing is destroying people." The trial, however, was paused globally this week after an unexplained illness in a participant.

Nkuna, a mother of a toddler who lives in one of Johannesburg's townships, says she’s not worried because she hasn’t had any symptoms, but admits her family and friends didn’t want her to volunteer.

"My mother was not happy at first because she thought that what if I can die?

What if I can get sick or anything can happen to me... People have their views and opinions, but me I would say the vaccine is a good thing, it can save the world if it might happen it can work.

Its an opportunity to save the world." Another volunteer, thirty-two-year-old Robyn Porteous, shares Nkuna’s sentiment.

"I've just decided there's no point being afraid, I don't want to make this whole experience to be something that's just grounded in fear.

I think it's an important thing to do and so I'm going to stay positive until maybe there's something that causes concern.

But it can be scary, but (I'm) trying to be positive." The vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, has been described by the World Health Organization as probably the world's leading candidate and the most advanced in terms of development.

South Africa has also been in talks with Johnson & Johnson and Novavax to conduct other experimental vaccine trials.

Testing of new medical interventions in Africa is often controversial though.

After the continent’s first COVID-19 trial was announced, anti-vaccine activists protested against Africans being used as test subjects.

But Porteous who acknowledged the criticism said she participated because the clinical trials could help South Africa secure access to a vaccine.

"I do understand the perception of, you know, possibly seeing Africans as being treated like guinea pigs.

But I think as I've said, you know, in order for us to get data that is South African-specific that ensures that when the vaccine rolls out, it is something that works for South Africans - that makes this vitally important."

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