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Updated May 7, 2020

 

South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize
South African health minister Zweli Mkhize (second from left).

 

A study to assess the potential benefits of an old tuberculosis vaccine in the fight against COVID-19 has started in Cape Town, South Africa. The medical trials center TASK has started a clinical trial with 500 subject: 250 as a control group and 250 front-line healthcare workers who’ve received the bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which contains live bacteria that have been attenuated, or weakened, so they stimulate the immune system. All children receive the BCG vaccine at birth in South Africa, so the study seeks to find out if revaccination with BCG could reduce the probability of infection with SARS-CoV-2 or help to manage COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers in the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States are also conducting trials to test BCG’s potential in protecting against COVID-19 and related complications.

 

Frustrations with the severity of restrictions have resulted in protests.

 

At 7,808 cases to date, South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa, but has managed to keep its mortality rate relatively low, at 153, with a sweeping lockdown, though frustrations with the severity of restrictions have resulted in protests. South Africa still remains one of the most unequal societies on the African continent, with the global pandemic placing a further burden on its poor and underserved population.

 

Access to clean water remains a challenge.

 

Access to clean water remains a challenge in many townships and rural areas throughout the country, along with cramped living conditions that reduce the likelihood of maintaining social distance. Unemployment has made the economic contraction from the lockdown all the more difficult for South Africa’s poorest residents, making the necessity of finding alternatives to quarantine all the more urgent.

 

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