Kenya kicks off Covid-19 vaccine trials

Written By: Margaret Kalekye

Person receiving a vaccine

Kenya has joined global efforts in the search of an effective vaccine for COVID-19 with the commencement of a trial that seeks to evaluate the efficacy of a leading COVID-19 vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19.

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The trial team has vaccinated its first volunteers after receiving requisite regulatory and ethical approvals, from the ministry of health and the Kilifi county government.

The trial will be hosted at the Kilifi based KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, a longstanding collaboration between KEMRI, University of Oxford and the Wellcome Trust in the UK.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford in partnership with AstraZeneca and is currently under evaluation in several countries including the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

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Performance among Kenyan volunteers

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The trial in Kenya will initially involve 40 frontline workers in Kilifi County. Once the vaccine safety is confirmed, a further 360 volunteers will be recruited with possible expansion of the trial to Mombasa County.

Following immunization, vaccine trial volunteers will be monitored over a period of 12 months to assess their health, any vaccine side-effects and how their bodies develop immunity in response to the vaccine.

ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 was made by incorporating genetic material from SARS-CoV-2 virus into the ChAdOx1 adenovirus vaccine platform that has a well-established track record in terms of its ability to safely elicit immune responses in humans when used for other diseases.

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This has allowed the clinical development of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 to move forward rapidly, with over 10000 volunteers immunised across the global trial sites and the vaccine found to be well tolerated.

“Vaccines which work in one population do not necessarily work in all populations; this has been witnessed in the case of vaccines against malaria, rotavirus and Ebola. To ensure that Kenyans can benefit from the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine if it proves to be successful, it is important to assess its performance among Kenyan volunteers” said the research institute in a statement.

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KEMRI has expressed an interest in evaluating the vaccine in Kenya, leveraging the institute’s well-established capacity in the conduct of clinical trials in Africa and long-standing collaboration with the University of Oxford.

The institute has been involved in pre-clinical vaccine development, first-in-human trials, as well as early and late-stage evaluation of vaccine candidates against malaria, Ebola, shigella, yellow fever and pneumonia.

The study plans to evaluate whether the vaccine is safe, effective and elicits good immune responses among adults in Kenya aged 18 years and above.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on healthcare systems and economies throughout the world and a vaccine would help alleviate these burdens.


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