Repurposed measles vaccine trials to fight Covid-19 set to kick off in SA - report

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The race for a Covid-19 vaccine is on.
The race for a Covid-19 vaccine is on.
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  • An international trial to test whether a repurposed measles, mumps and rubella vaccine could protect against Covid-19 is set to kick off in South Africa.
  • The trial will see 30 000 health workers from the around the world take part, with 5 000 from sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The trial is a joint project by the University of the Witwatersrand, Washington University and University College London.


An international trial which will test whether a measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine will protect frontline healthcare workers from Covid-19 is set to kick off in South Africa, according to a report in Business Day on Monday.

READ | SA Covid-19 vaccine trial: Why I got the experimental vaccine

The vaccine is popularly used in childhood immunisation programmes, the report said.

The trial is a joint project by the University of the Witwatersrand, Washington University and University College London through the Covid-19 Research Outcomes Worldwide Network for Coronavirus Prevention (Crown Coronation) collaborative.

According to the report, the trial aims to recruit 30 000 healthcare workers from all over the world, including the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority is expected to give the go-ahead for the trial soon and 5 000 volunteers will be enrolled in sub-Saharan Africa - half of them will be given the repurposed MMR shot and the other half a placebo.

 ALSO READ | Covid-19: Wits resumes participation in the Oxford's vaccine trials

It is funded by a $9 million grant from a global collaboration backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as a R1 million contribution from the South African Medical Research Council, the report said.

It added that while more than 170 potential Covid-19 vaccines were being developed around the world, only nine are stage 3 efficacy trials and none have yet been approved, according to the World Health Organisation.

Vaccines that are already used to protect people from diseases like polio and tuberculosis are also being investigated as an option against Covid-19.

According to the co-principal investigator Bruce Biccard, measles and rubella contain some proteins that are similar to those in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and the MMR shot could produce a "cross-protective" effect, the report said.

News24 previously reported that another trial, the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial, had resumed after it was forced to pause following a "medical event".

The temporary halt in the trial in the UK meant South Africa had to pause too. However, the University of the Witwatersrand said the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and local ethics committee had once again approved the resumption of the trial.

According to Professor Shabir Madhi, the executive director of the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit (VIDA) who leads the Ox1nCov19 trial in South Africa, said 18 000 study vaccines had been received as part of this trial.

City Press also reported that South Africa would take part in two more Covid-19 vaccine trials, the Johnson & Johnson Ad26.Cov2-S trial and a Novavax product called NVX-CoV2373.

- Compiled by Azarrah Karrim


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