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Chapter 1: Vaccine trials in South Africa

Shabir Madhi, a virologist and lead investigator in South Africa’s clinical trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine, discusses his research. The South African government announced it would halt distribution of that vaccine after Madhi’s team of scientists found that it did not protect against mild or moderate forms of the coronavirus variant now dominant in that country.

During a press briefing, South African officials said further research would need to show that the vaccine protects against severe disease. In a statement, the drugmaker pointed out that the trials were limited to a small and predominantly healthy group of adults. “We believe our vaccine will protect against severe disease caused by the new B.1.351 variant,” AstraZeneca said, referring to the strain driving a surge of cases in South Africa.

Madhi said the results of his study, while disappointing, are a reminder that the “game is far from over” on vaccine development. “What it tells us is that to be able to protect against infection probably is a much higher bar than what is required of a vaccine to be able to protect against severe disease,” he said.

Professor Shabir Madhi is the dean of faculty of health sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, and director of the university’s Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics Research Unit. He is also co-director of the African Local Initiative for Vaccinology Expertise, a program dedicated to increasing vaccine research activity in Africa.Dr.

Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is host of “The Science Behind the Coronavirus.” Soon-Shiong is a surgeon and scientist who has spent his career studying the human immune system to fight cancer and infectious disease. Last year, Soon-Shiong’s company, ImmunityBio, received permission from the Food and Drug Administration to begin Phase 1 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company has also received approval to begin trials in South Africa, where a new variant of the virus has led to a sudden rise in cases.