Concerns are growing over Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine’s effectiveness, after Bahrain said it will give Pfizer boosters to citizens

Pfizer Covid-19 Booster Shots In Bahrain Cast Doubts On China’s Sinopharm Vaccine

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Thursday, June 3, 2021 05:43 PM IST
Pfizer Covid-19 Booster Shots In Bahrain Cast Doubts On China’s Sinopharm VaccineRepresentative image
  • People above the age of 50 in Bahrain who are more vulnerable are now being asked to get a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, almost six months after completing the vaccination with Sinopharm jabs.

While battling a sharp surge in Covid-19 cases, Bahrain, which began vaccination drive with a made-in-China vaccine, has started to give booster shots to vulnerable individuals using a different vaccine made by American company Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.

Waleed Khalifa al Manea, who is Bahrain’s undersecretary of health, said that China’s Sinopharm vaccine—which has accounted for over 60 per cent of the country’s vaccination so far—was providing a high degree of protection.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the senior official said that over 90 per cent of people hospitalized during the recent Covid-19 wave had not been inoculated.

He said this is the worst wave the country has faced so far.

As per him, the people of the country—who are above the age of 50—are either obese or have a chronic illness, and they are now being asked to get another shot of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, almost six months after completing the vaccination with Sinopharm jabs.

He added that the Bahrain government had started the booster vaccine drive at the end of May.

However, the country will continue to offer the choice of Sinopharm vaccine to the people who would prefer the Chinese shot, and through the government’s BeAware app, they will be able to make the bookings.

In the case of the Pfizer-Biotech vaccine, it is recommended for a more vulnerable group of people in the country.

In recent weeks, daily Covid-19 deaths in Bahrain have risen to 12 per million people, about five times higher than in India.

The deadly Covid-19 wave has led the island nation’s government to close shopping malls and restaurants to contain the outbreak.

Sinopharm Covid-19 Vaccine

According to recently published clinical data, Sinopharm’s efficiency among the groups most vulnerable to severe disease is limited.

The trial included 40,382 volunteers from across the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

The study found 78 per cent efficacy against symptomatic coronavirus caused disease for one of two versions of the Sinopharm vaccine.

It showed some limitations as almost 85 per cent of the volunteers were healthy male.

Less than 2 per cent of participants were aged 60 or above, and most of them were healthy people.

In a separate study of Sinopharm in Serbia, 29 per cent of 150 volunteers were found to have zero antibodies against the coronavirus three months after they received the first of two doses of the vaccine.

According to this unpublished study, the average age of the participants in the Serbian study was higher than 65.

Olgica Djurkovic-Djakovic, the doctor who headed the study at the University of Belgrade, told The Wall Street Journal, “The Sinopharm vaccine is not immunogenic enough, and it appears that its impact is especially low on elderly recipients”.

She also revealed that among those 150 people, 10 individuals contracted SARS-CoV-2.

Previously, along with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates said that they would provide booster shots to people who completed the two-dose regimen six months ago.

UAE said that it already began administering a third booster shot of Sinopharm to some residents who failed to develop antibodies with the first two.

In Dubai, the health authorities have also started revaccinating—using Pfizer-BioNTech shot—those people who had been fully inoculated with Sinopharm.

In one case, 42-year-old Brindha Satheshwaran, a Dubai resident, was vaccinated with Sinopharm in January and said she felt safe until her husband, who also got the Chinese vaccine, had an antibody test that came back negative.

She stated that they both chose to obtain two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, the first of which they received in late May.

The UAE government reported in December 2020 that the Sinopharm vaccine showed 86 per cent protection against symptomatic disease and 100 per cent protection against moderate, as well as serious illness in its initial report on Phase III trials.

The complete protection claim attracted many people, including a Dubai-based Egyptian consultant, Eman Shaaban.

She managed to get a UAE residency for her 67-year-old mother Rawya el-Sayyed so that she could get the Sinopharm vaccine.

Sayyed, who had high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, got both shots.

But after Sayyed returned to Cairo in March, she contracted the virus during Ramadan and died on 16 May.

Shaaban said: “I did not really see this coming until she was put on a ventilator, because everyone was saying: Vaccines protect you from death”.

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