Concerns are growing over the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines after Bahrain announced that it would start giving additional immunization to its citizens by inoculating them with Pfizer and BioNTech SE vaccine to counter the sharp surge in the Covid-19 cases despite high rate of vaccination with the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines.
According to the reports, Bahrain, which has seen a sudden resurgence of Covid-19 despite high levels of immunisation with a Chinese-made vaccine, has started giving booster shots to its vulnerable citizens using Pfizer-BioNTech doses.
Last year, Bahrain was one of the first countries to buy China’s Sinopharm vaccine, even though serious doubts were raised on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. A year later, the Persian Gulf country is raising doubts about the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Waleed Khalifa al Manea, Bahrain’s Undersecretary of Health, said the Sinopharm vaccine, which has accounted for more than 60% of Bahrain’s injections so far, provided a high degree of protection. However, nearly 90% of people infected in the current Covid-19 wave had not been vaccinated, he said.
Dr. al Manea also added that Bahrain residents who are aged over 50 and have chronic illnesses have been asked to get a booster shot six months after their complete Sinopharm vaccination. The government started offering the boosters at the end of May, he said. The Bahrain government will also go for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to vaccinate its unvaccinated residents. However, they will also continue to offer the choice of Sinopharm to those who prefer the Chinese vaccine, Dr. al Manea said.
According to the Bahrain News Agency, 1,936 fresh cases were recorded on Thursday, taking the total tally in the country to more than 240,000, with over a thousand deaths.
Not just in Bahrain, Sinopharm trials in Serbia did not yield satisfactory results too: Reports
The peer-reviewed results of Sinopharm’s efficacy were published on May 26 by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found 78% efficacy against symptomatic disease for one of two versions of the Sinopharm vaccine. However, there was no conclusive evidence to suggest the vaccine was effective for all age groups.
In a separate trial in Serbia, 29% of 150 participants were found to have zero antibodies against the virus even after three months. In addition, the average age of the people who participated in the Serbian study was higher than 65.
“The Sinopharm vaccine is not immunogenic enough, and it appears that its impact is especially low on elderly recipients,” noted Olgica Djurkovic-Djakovic, the head of the research.
The Communist Party of China has used two Chinese-made vaccines – Sinopharm and Sinovac as the critical tools of Beijing’s international diplomacy, especially in developing nations that have found it tough to secure sufficient doses of US and European-made vaccines. Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. have already received emergency approval from the World Health Organization.
The two vaccines are manufactured with inactivated virus, a long-used technique for making vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech shot employs a new technology using messenger RNA.
Seychelles, UAE also providing third booster shots
Seychelles, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean, became the world’s most vaccinated nation due to donations of the Sinopharm vaccine from the UAE. However, a recent surge in Covid-19 cases has been reported in the archipelago despite people getting jabbed by the Chinese vaccines. Following the scare, the Seychelles health ministry said it is considering vaccinating its people with a third booster shot.
Just as Bahrain and Seychelles, the UAE has also 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 fact, Sinopharm had carried out a sophisticated trial in UAE and based on the UAE-led clinical trials in the Middle East, Sinopharm had also signed contracts to sell 175 million doses to countries like Egypt, Hungary, and Argentina while donating another 18 million to other small countries.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are among several nation-heads who have publicly taken the Sinopharm jab.
As cases continue to surge in UAE, the authorities in Dubai, the most populous of the seven members of the UAE, have started giving Pfizer-BioNTech doses to people who were yet to receive complete doses of Sinopharm. Like in Bahrain, one can now choose in UAE which vaccine to take.
As questions are being raised against the efficacy of Sinopharm, China has maintained complete silence. In a press conference last month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying had responded to the recent virus spike in Seychelles, another nation heavily dependent on Sinopharm, claiming that such reports “exposes their unhealthy mindset of denigrating China at every turn.”