7 things you need to know about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
JOHANNESBURG - Three weeks after Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for South Africa, the first one million doses have arrived. South Africa secured one million doses this month, while 500,000 more are expected later this month.
The vaccine - AZD1222 - was developed by British-Swedish biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford, and is one of several in the market.
Its emergency use was approved in December after trials showed that it was safe and up to 90% effective in preventing infection from the coronavirus.
The production and distribution is being handled by the Serum Institute of India - the world's largest vaccine manufacturer.
Below, we answered questions you might have around South Africa's first COVID-19 vaccine.
How was it developed?
Like many scientists around the world - researchers at AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford got down to work early on in 2020 as the novel coronavirus ravaged parts of the world.
By April, after initial trials in Britain and India, developers made headway and reported that they had not detected severe side effects. Weeks later, the trials were extended to South Africa, the United States and Brazil.
But there were some hiccups along the way and in September global trials were halted when a volunteer developed a form of inflammation.
When was it first used?
After much work and peer-reviewed results of phase three trials, the vaccine was authorised for emergency use in the UK in December.
How does it work?
AstraZeneca's AZD1222 is a viral vector vaccine. That means it does not contain an infectious pathogen. Instead, it uses a harmless virus to deliver a genetic code to cells, ultimately training the immune system to react to future infections.
Have people in other countries used it already?
Millions of doses have already been administered in the UK, while some have been shipped to several countries including Morocco , Saudi Arabia and Brazil.
How and when will it be administered?
In South Africa - much like elsewhere in the world - frontline workers such as nurses , doctors and others in essential industries will be vaccinated first.
They will require two jabs - administered at least four weeks apart.
If I take the vaccine, do I still need to social distance?
There is currently not enough data to show how long one will have immunity from the virus after the inoculations - or if this specific vaccine is effective in fighting the current variant believed to be fuelling a surge in new COVID-19 cases.
How much is it costing us?
AstraZeneca's vaccine is cheaper than those developed by the likes of Pfizer and Moderna and does not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures to survive.
South Africa is paying between $12 and $13 per dose as an upper middle-income country. Procuring the vaccine directly from AstraZeneca or the Serum Institute of India costs $3 per dose.
WATCH: What you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine in SA
This article first appeared on EWN : 7 things you need to know about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine