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Chapter 2: The next generation of COVID-19 vaccines

Shabir Madhi, a virologist who led South Africa’s trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, discusses the scientific community’s effort to combat the coronavirus. The challenge has only become more difficult in recent months as mutations of the virus have shown resistance to antibodies derived from past coronavirus infections or vaccines.

Madhi’s research is among the latest signs that mutated strains of the virus present a new threat to public health. The South African government announced that it would halt distribution of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine after Madhi’s team of investigators found the vaccine did not protect against mild or moderate cases of the variant driving a surge of cases in that country.

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. 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.