JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa on Friday started vaccinating some children and adolescents as part of the global Phase 3 clinical trials of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged between 6 months and 17 years.
The global study will enroll 2,000 participants in South Africa and 12,000 others will be taking part in Kenya, the Philippines, Chile and Malaysia.
The first children in South Africa were inoculated at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in the capital Pretoria to kick off the trials and others will get shots at 6 different sites across the country, the Sinovac company said in a statement Friday.
“The primary objective of the study is to evaluate the efficacy of two doses of the CoronaVac against confirmed symptomatic COVID-19 cases in children and adolescents," said the statement.
“Efficacy will also be evaluated against hospitalization and severe COVID-19 cases,” Sinovac said.
South Africa, which accounts for more than 35% of COVID-19 infections in Africa with 2.8 million confirmed cases including 84,327 deaths, and has recently battled a resurgence driven by the delta variant.
South Africa has recorded 6,270 new infections and 175 deaths in the last 24 hours.
More than 7 million people have been fully vaccinated with either the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It is currently offering vaccines to all adults 18 years and older as it seeks to vaccinate at least 40 million people of its 60 million population by the end of the year but it is struggling to reach its target of vaccinating at least 300,000 people daily.
On Friday health minister Joe Phaahla announced the country would be issuing digital vaccination certificates to enable South Africans to produce these wherever they are needed.
While the government has said it will not force people to get vaccinated, some companies have already indicated that they will make vaccinations compulsory for their employees.
Various establishments like restaurants and bars would have to make their own decision on whether or not they serve unvaccinated patrons.