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Making Sure the Correct Vaccine Comes to Africa

Hundreds of drug trials around the world have been testing possible COVID-19 treatments, but almost none have been in Africa. Now, researchers on the continent are mounting a large effort to try to answer a crucial question that has gotten relatively little attention: Could cheap, widely available drugs prevent patients with mild illness from becoming severely sick? ANTICOV, launched in late September, aims to recruit thousands of patients in 13 countries. It focuses on testing cheap drugs that could keep patients out of hospitals. If large numbers of patients progress to severe disease that requires oxygen or ventilation, the result “would be a catastrophe” for health systems in Africa, says Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft of the nonprofit drug development group Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, which is coordinating the trial. So far, only the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has started its trial and enrolled about 150 patients. Over the next few months, a dozen other nations, including Sudan, Uganda, Mozambique, and Mali are expected to join. Kenya is slated to start recruiting next week. The first patients in Ghana should be enrolled in early 2021, Amuasi says. Researchers will run an interim analysis on data from the first 300 patients and repeat the analysis with each additional 450 patients. The researchers plan to add more treatment arms to test other drugs, and to drop drugs from the study once they reach preset criteria for success or futility.