News Brief

Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine Maker Sinopharm Publishes Most Awaited Study Details, Concerns About Trials Remain

Bhaswati Guha Majumder

Jun 03, 2021, 03:19 PM | Updated 03:19 PM IST

(file photo)
(file photo)

Amid rising concerns over Chinese vaccines, currently being used in several countries around the world, China’s Sinopharm has finally submitted large scale study results, noting that its vaccines successfully contained Covid-19.

Many experts earlier voiced their concerns about the lack of details from the Chinese vaccine makers about the jabs, their efficacy and safety. Sinopharm has published its findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on 26 May.

This is the first time a detailed finding from a large-scale trial of a shot developed by a Chinese company has appeared in the scientific literature.

According to the study, two inactivated Covid-19 vaccines, developed by Sinopharm’s vaccine-making unit China National Biotec Group Co. are found to be able to prevent symptomatic coronavirus infections by 72.8 per cent and 78.1 per cent.

Chinese vaccines, including the jabs from Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech, which is another Beijing-based vaccine maker, have been used in many countries like Hungary, Serbia, Peru and Seychelles, where authorities reported a surge in Covid-19 cases.

When China decided to take its vaccines to other countries, lack of data raised doubts on the ability of the vaccines to contain Covid -19—especially when cases started to rise in Seychelles and Chile which used Chinese vaccines to inoculate their population.

While earlier this year, in Hong Kong, an advisory panel waived the requirement for a peer-reviewed publication to approve the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine, regulators in Singapore are still demanding additional data.

Study Details

According to the study published in JAMA, the trial included 40,382 volunteers from across the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt. These participants were split into three groups and received either two doses of the vaccines—21 days apart—or a placebo.

The study found that during a median follow-up duration of 77 days, symptomatic Covid-19 was identified in 26 participants who were given the vaccine called WIV04, 21 of those given the vaccine known as HBO2 and 95 given a placebo.

The study also noted that none of the participants who were given an active vaccine developed severe coronavirus caused diseases, while 2 severe cases of Covid-19 occurred in the placebo group.

However, the study showcased some limitations in the vaccine trial.

The majority of the participants were men—almost 85 per cent of the volunteers. Less than 2 per cent of participants were aged 60 or above and most of them were healthy individuals. This means that there is not enough evidence about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines among women, the elderly population and those with comorbidities.

The above limitations notwithstanding Sinopharm’s vaccine has already received approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month.

According to the latest reports, this week, the Sri Lankan government has received another batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine as a donation from the Chinese government.

In the case of Sinovac Covid -19 vaccine, even though the UN health agency hasn’t yet approved the shot, more than 380 million doses have been distributed around the world.

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