By the end of October over 40 million people around the world had been confirmed to have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, and almost 1.2 million people had died from the infection. There is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. However, there are several prevention and containment measures being implemented globally and nationally. These include lock downs, restrictions in travel, physical distancing, hand hygiene among others.
As the number of cases continue to rise globally, an effective vaccine remains the most effective way to control the pandemic. KWTRP researchers are leading research to evaluate whether a vaccine can protect people from COVID-19 ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 is a vaccine which has been developed at the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca.
The vaccine is made from incorporating genetic material from a COVID-19 virus into an adenovirus. Adenovirus causes a mild flu amongst chimpanzees, but the modified form of virus used for ChAdOx1 cannot cause disease in humans. The platform used to the make this vaccine has a well-established track record in terms of safety and its ability to elicit an immune response, and this has allowed the clinical development to move forward rapidly.
Research question(s) and populations
The researchers aim to evaluate whether the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine is safe, effective and if it elicit good immune responses in adults aged 18 years and above?
The trial in Kenya will initially involve 40 front line workers, and if the vaccine is shown to be safe, a further 360 volunteers will be recruited. The immune responses will be evaluated up to 12 months following immunization with a single dose of vaccine. The vaccine is currently being evaluated in the UK, Brazil, South Africa and the USA and has been administered to more than 20,000 volunteers with no significant safety concerns. The Phase 3 interim analysis of the trial results in the UK and Brazil have shown that the Vaccine is 70.4% effective when combining data from two dosing regimens
Vaccines which work and are safe in one population do not necessarily work in all populations, this has been witnessed in the cases of the malaria vaccines, rotavirus and Ebola vaccines. It is therefore it’s important to find out whether the trial vaccine is safe and works among Kenyan volunteers to ensure that Kenyans can benefit from the vaccine if it proves to be successful.
In addition, Kenya and KEMRI was identified as a trial site due to its well-established capacity to carry out internationally acclaimed research work and as one of the best clinical trials facility in Sub-Saharan Africa. The team in KEMRI-Wellcome has been involved in both prevaccine development work, first in human trials including human challenge study’s, evaluation of vaccine candidates including Malaria, Ebola and Pneumonia vaccine candidates.