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South Africa asks Serum Institute of India to take back 1 million vaccine doses: Report

Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca's shot, has emerged as a key vaccine supplier. One million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine landed in South Africa last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks.

February 16, 2021 / 11:32 AM IST
Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

South Africa has asked the Serum Institute of India to take back the one million COVID-19 vaccine doses the company had sent in early February, The Economic Times reported on Tuesday, a week after the country said it will put on hold use of AstraZeneca's shot in its vaccination program.

Serum Institute of India, which is producing AstraZeneca's shot, has emerged as a key vaccine supplier.

One million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine landed in South Africa last week and another 500,000 were due to arrive in the next few weeks.

The company did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

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.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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South Africa's health minister has said the government may sell doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, after the country paused its rollout following a small clinical trial that showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant dominant in the country.

AstraZeneca has said its vaccine appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant, based on data from a study by South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University.

The African country, which is yet to launch its COVID-19 vaccination program, has decided to start vaccinating health workers with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine in the form of an "implementation study" with researchers.

The Economic Times report also comes as the World Health Organization on Monday listed the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

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Reuters

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