A World Health Organization (WHO)-backed programme to supply coronavirus vaccines to poorer countries expects that the Serum Institute of India (SII) will resume full deliveries of the AstraZeneca shot to it in May, UNICEF said on Saturday.
“Deliveries of SII/AZ vaccine are expected to begin fully again by May, with catch-up deliveries to reach every participant’s full allocation up to May, accelerating thereafter,” a UNICEF spokeswoman told Reuters in an email.
The spokeswoman added that the programme, known as COVAX, was in talks with New Delhi to secure “some supply” in April too. COVAX was expecting a total of 90 million doses from SII in March and April, of which it has received about 28 million.
UNICEF is the distributing partner of the programme, run with the GAVI vaccine alliance.
India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, said on Friday it would make domestic COVID-19 inoculations a priority as infections surge, and had told international buyers of its decision.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday that India’s decision was “understandable” but that the WHO was in talks so it continues providing doses to other countries.
So far COVAX has delivered 32 million vaccine doses to 61 countries, but 36 countries still await vaccines to start inoculations, Tedros said.