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Kenya joins global trial of Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine

NAIROBI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Kenya has joined the global clinical trial of Oxford University’s vaccine candidate against the new coronavirus, the state medical research institute said on Friday.

The vaccine candidate, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, has been developed jointly with Astrazeneca and is being evaluated in four countries: Britain, South Africa, Brazil and now Kenya.

“To ensure that Kenyans can benefit... if it proves to be successful, it is important to assess its performance among Kenyan volunteers,” the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) said in a statement.

KEMRI has already vaccinated the first volunteers after receiving the receiving the required regulatory and ethical approvals, it said.

The experiment in Kenya will initially involve 40 frontline workers in the coastal county of Kilifi.

If that phase ascertains the vaccine’s safety, then an additional 360 volunteers will also be recruited into the programme.

The East African nation has seen a surge in the weekly number of infections in the past month, after the government lifted some restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

It has so far recorded 52,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 964 deaths.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 1.17 million people, shuttered swathes of the global economy and turned normal life upside down for billions of people.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be one of the first from big pharma to secure regulatory approval, along with Pfizer and BioNTech’s candidate, as the world tries to plot a path out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reporting by David Lewis; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Hugh Lawson

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