Sinovac's vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )
As the vaccine shortage makes countries desperate, they are buying China's unproven vaccines by millions.
Coronavirus numbers in India and the world aren't looking good. More than 126 thousand infections have been recorded in India in last 24 hours. Worldover, more than 500 thousand people have tested positive every day in the last seven days. This is an average number. Brazil and India are the new hotspots. Two factors are causing spike in infections. One, the virus variants. Two, massive global shortage of vaccines. China is emerging as a winner in this situation.
As the vaccine shortage makes countries desperate, they are buying China's unproven vaccines by millions. As if overnight, china has become --- the biggest producer and exporter of Wuhan virus vaccines.
Coronavirus is no longer the same. It is mutating and taking many forms. Some of these variants are more infectious. The Wuhan virus had mutated more than 12000 times by November 2020. Most of these mutations are unremarkable but some are serious. Experts are tracking four of them.
The first one is called the Brazil variant. Scientists call this 'P1' It was first identified in the Amazonian city of Manaus in December 2020. Now it's the dominant strain in brazil. There is no evidence that this variant make a patient more unwell, but it does spread faster.
On Thursday (April 8) Brazil recorded more than four thousand Wuhan virus deaths in a single day.
The next variant is the UK variant. Scientists call it "B1.1.7". It was first detected in the UK in September last year. At that time it was seen in just one out of four patients.
By December, almost two-thirds of the new cases in London were of this strain.
Countries started imposing travel bans on the UK. That did not stop the spread. Now the variant is found on all major continents. Then we have the south Africa variant.
This too, has spread to a number of countries. Experts believe vaccines are less effective against the South African strain. And fourth one is called the 'Double mutant'
This variant was found in India recently in samples from Maharastra, Delhi and Punjab. This virus is called a double mutant because the variant carries two mutations
This allows the virus to evade body's immune system. It could be resistant to antibodies.
So even those who have recovered might catch the Wuhan virus again. That could also mean weaker immunity from existing vaccines.
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So there are four serious mutations of the virus. And all four types have been found in India.
Is that why the cases are shooting up? It can't be said for sure.
That's because Indian authorities are reportedly not testing enough for newer strains. According to a report India has tested less than one percent of its positive samples for variants.
In comparison, the UK Has sequenced eight percent of infections. And 33 percent in just the last week. So we simply don't know how the new strains are behaving in India.
The experts have maintained so far that the vaccine work against the new strains. But there aren't enough vaccines.
The EU decided to curb vaccine exports for six weeks.
Yesterday, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison complained about supply shortages from Europe.
In America, there is a shortage of the Johnson and Johnson shot. Several cities are bracing for a supply disruption.
Same with the UK. It has begun using the Moderna vaccine now. That's because the rollout of other shots has dropped to the lowest level this year. There's a supply crunch at Astrazeneca.
It has been caused by manufacturing problems in the company.
Astrazeneca had struck a deal with India's Serum Institute to make the Oxford vaccine here
So AstraZeneca was relying on the Serum Institute for supplies. Now it has sent a legal notice to its Indian partner. AstraZeneca is blaming the Serum Institute for supply delays. Also complaining of supply delay are some Indian states.
They say the Astrazeneca vaccine or Covishield is not available in enough quantities. It is one of the two vaccines approved for use in India. The govt of India has already placed a temporary hold on all exports of the vaccine. It says complaints of shortages in India are unfounded. The health minister of India shared these figures.
He says there are enough vaccines to go around in India. For the rest of the world though, the shortage is serious.
China knows that governments are desperate. They will lap up vaccines, even if the efficacy is questionable.
And that's exactly what's happening. Reports say 70 countries and territories have either approved Chinese shots or struck deals to secure them.
Beijing has even donated shots to 37 countries. China has produced 230 million doses. By March it had exported more than 100 million shots. In comparison, India has exported 63 million doses to 84 countries.
And the European Union has exported 58 million doses. What about the rest of the developed world?
They don't believe in sharing. They're busy inoculating their own citizens first.
The result is this, China with unproven shots is leading the exports of Wuhan virus vaccines.