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GlamScience Hot Topic: COVID-19 Vaccine Human Trials

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

To read an article published by the University of Witwatersrand Johannesburg (Wits University), which is the South African university that is collaborating with University of Oxford and the Oxford Jenner Institute on the South African trials, click here.

To watch a video and read an article by Reuters on the trials, click here.

In case you missed our discussion, here is a summary of the thoughts our community had on the COVID-19 vaccine human trials that’s taking place in South Africa.


There has been a video going around on Twitter, which shows a clip of a news segment on the human trials of the Coronavirus vaccine that is taking place in Africa. While the segment does state that the same trials are taking place in the UK and Brazil, some people are extremely unhappy about the fact that the trials are taking place in Africa.

Some say it’s a way to exploit the continent and use Africans as guinea pigs, while some say it is necessary in order to ensure that the continent is represented in scientific research.

Question 1: What are your thoughts on this issue

  • I think it’s important to have a broad spectrum of tests to ensure feasibility

  • Alot of African countries don’t have the funds to deal with potential adverse effects

  • And I know its poor tasted because the medical community has always used people of African descent as Guinea pigs in development of medical procedures

  • I mean - who led the research

  • I just feel like they’re going to go for the most vulnerable & scared people & trick them

  • The cycle of exploitation just keeps rolling along

  • I do not have confidence those trials in Africa are being conducted in the same manner as those in the UK

Question 2: What are some ways to make sure that human trials done in Africa are done correctly and ethically?

  • I guess to do them all around the world. Also the exact same test should be done. Same time period.

  • Universal clinical trials, where people volunteer only. Some sort of compensation too.

  • Why do we always resort to testing in Africa? Why not Sweden? Australia?

  • Providing easily understood informed consent and compensation for volunteering.

  • Being aware of them and questioning that they are held to the same standards as US

  • Regular audits from ethical committees unrelated to the project

  • Ensure all trials, regardless of country or continent, follow the same protocols

  • You can’t have an ethical study if the people running it are unethical

  • Have African researchers on the team and heavy oversight

Question 3: What are some things that you can do as a member of the scientific community to help this issue?

  • Require bioethics course, it was required for my Masters program

  • Talk with peers about it...We live in our silos of science expertise, It’s usually all related

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