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Covid-19: Mauritius received first doses of vaccine while only 60 million doses administered worldwide

Covid-Vaccine

Mauritius received 100,000 Covid-19 vaccines from India. This aid from India, will help vaccinate 50,000 Mauritians, since it needs to be injected in two doses. While Mauritius will now start its vaccination roll-out, only 60 millions doses have been administered worldwide.

Mauritius’ first batch of vaccines arrived from India on Friday, 22nd January 2021. This first batch contained 100,000 vaccines for 50,000 Mauritians to be inoculated, since this vaccine needs to be injected in two doses. Produced by the Serum Institute of India, these covid-19 vaccines are given to Mauritius as donation from the Indian government. 

India is, thus, rolling out its “vaccine diplomacy” and has dispatched vaccines to its neighboring countries as well. The Mauritian Prime Minister, Pravind Jugnauth, and other members of the government as well as the High Commissioner of India, Kottapally Nandini Singla were present at the Plaisance Airport to receive the first batch of vaccine. 

In her statement, the High Commissioner of India, Kottapally Nandini Singla, called it another momentous day in the glorious relationship between India and Mauritius. “With the arrival of the vaccines we add another great chapter in this special historic, time-tested ties that bind our two countries so closely,” she added.

She further added that Mauritius is one of the 7 priority partner countries to whom India is gifting vaccines in the first phase. “I believe there can be no more solid testimony to this special affection and importance that India attaches to Mauritius than this evidence today,” she said.

“We warmly applaud India for leading by example, and Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for donating doses of covid-19 vaccines to countries with which India has friendly relations. We feel highly privileged that Mauritius is one of them,” said Mauritian Prime Minister..

The vaccine which is called Covishield in India is actually the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine which is being manufactured locally in India by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. The company is said to be producing more than  50 million doses a month. The Covishield is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus, which is known as an adenovirus, from chimpanzees. When injected the vaccine triggers the immune system to start making antibodies and prepares it to attack any coronavirus infection. 

The vaccine comes in two doses, it is given between four and twelve weeks apart. It can be stored at temperatures of 2°C to 8°C, which is about the same as a domestic refrigerator. Given that its temperature does not need to drop to lower than that, it makes it easier to be stored and delivered. Thus an advantage compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine which requires to be stored at -70°C and can only be moved a limited number of times. 

As for its effectiveness, clinical trials showed the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to be 62-90% effective. The Indian manufacturers of the vaccine, the Serum Institute, claim that Covishield is “highly effective” and supported by Brazil and United Kingdom phase III trial results. Clinical trials are a three-phase method of evaluating whether the vaccine causes healthy immune responses and whether any unacceptable side effects are triggered by it.

The other batch of vaccine will be provided by the Covax Facility and would cater to 20% of the Mauritian population. Which vaccine will be provided is not yet announced. What is known so far is that there will be a basket of vaccines provided to Mauritius. That basket may contain vaccines from different pharmaceutical companies. The timeframe of the arrival of those vaccines is yet to be released. 

Mauritian Prime Minister, in his statement upon receipt of the first batch of vaccines, highlighted that the government has engaged with the major pharmaceutical manufacturers including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Gamaleya institute, and AstraZeneca. The government is further making arrangements with the African Union for the procurement of around 260,000 doses of vaccines.

The priority of the vaccines has been said to be dedicated to front-liners working in hospitals, treatment centers, quarantine centers, and the airport as they are the ones that would be more exposed to the virus.

Which countries are receiving vaccines from India?

Called “Vaccine Maitri”, or Vaccine of Friendship, India initiated that program to come to help its neighboring countries. As part of this program, 150,000 doses of vaccine were sent to Bhutan and 100,000 to the Maldives on the 20th January 2021. Two million doses have been donated to Bangladesh and one million to Nepal. Seychelles and Burma will also benefit from this assistance.

India is also planning to send vaccines to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan as well once it gets the regulatory clearance. Commercial exports of the Covishield vaccine to Brazil have also been authorized. Brazil is expected to receive two million doses of the Covishield vaccine from India, two weeks after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro demanded “urgent” clearance from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sources reported to The Hindu.

Israel, the frontrunner 

More than 60.3 million doses in 55 countries have been administered, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The latest rate was roughly 2.95 million doses a day, on average.

The country with the most people vaccinated is Israel, where 38 out of 100 people have already been vaccinated as at 21 January 2021, according to ourworldindata. That is more than 3 million people out of a total of 9.3 million already having received the first vaccination. 

According to media reports, Israel has paid well above the going rate for the Pfizer vaccines, hoping to be able to open the Israeli economy sooner. Israeli Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, says that as part of the deal, Israel has offered to share epidemiological data with Pfizer.  

“What we promised them, and we do keep the promises you can see, is that if we get the vaccine, we’ll be very efficient,” said Edelstein. “We’ll vaccinate big numbers of the Israeli population, a huge proportion of the Israeli population very soon. Pfizer will be able to see how it influences the level of disease in Israel, the possibility to open the economy, different aspects of social life, whether there are any effects of the vaccination.”

The United Arab Emirates has a rate of 22.7 out of 100 people vaccinated as at 21 January 2021. Nearly 2 million people in the UAE have already inoculated the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine. The latter is available for free to citizens and residents.

The UAE made the Sinopharm vaccine available to frontline health workers and government officials last September. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being rolled out in Dubai, which is also being offered for free. The UAE’s national vaccination program is now the second-highest in the world after Israel.

India launched last Saturday (16th January) the world’s largest vaccination program against coronavirus. A massive task of trying to vaccinate its 1.3 billion citizens. By 19th January, the Indian government said 631,417 people had been vaccinated, which is far below the expected target. 

In the case of the UK, the NHS reported a total of 3,981,445 vaccines given for the week ending on 17th January. The government warned it was too early to contemplate easing restrictions as U.K.’s third coronavirus lockdown looks set to continue.


Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine likely to be effective against UK’s variant

The coronavirus vaccine by Pfizer/BioNTech might be effective against the covid-19 variant found in the UK in late 2020, suggests a study by two companies. The variant, known as B.1.1.7., has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and rapid transmission. Being found in the UK first, the characteristics of this variant, which is a mutation of the coronavirus, has sparked concern as it started spreading faster. 

The variant also led to concerns about whether the vaccines that have been rolled out in different countries are efficient against those mutations. Research published by BioRxiv however indicated “no biologically significant difference in neutralization activity against the two pseudoviruses”; that is the tests on B.1.1.7 and the original coronavirus bear no significant differences. 

The study, which is a preliminary report that has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that mutations linked to the new variant were counteracted by antibodies in the blood of 16 participants that had previously been given the vaccine. Amongst those 16 participants, half were aged 18-55 years old, and the other half 56-85 years old. 

Though the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech is likely to be effective against the variant, authors of the study warn that the rapid spread of the Covid variants around the world requires “continuous monitoring of the significance of changes for maintained protection by currently authorized vaccines.

Pfizer/BioNTech was confident that their vaccine would be able to cater to the new variant as well. In an interview with CNBC, Dr. Ugur Sahin, co-founder, and CEO of BioNTech said: “We are confident that based on the mechanism of our vaccine, even though there are mutations, we believe that the immune response which is induced by our vaccine could also deal with (a) mutated virus.”

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