Sinopharm Vaccine

What We Should Know About The Sinopharm Vaccine?

China and Russia moving towards helping the developing countries by vaccinating them. Chinese companies have made agreements in the past few months to manufacture over 260 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V alongside China’s Sinopharm vaccine. With the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases and deaths, numbers of vaccines are developed by different scientific research organizations and institutes globally. A couple of days ago World Health Organization (WHO) has granted its emergency approval for the Sinopharm vaccine which is developed by a Chinese state-owned company, Sinopharm. Right after the WHO approval for Sinopharm Chinese coronavirus vaccine, Sri Lanka immediately started administering the vaccine for the local population. Hence, it is of utmost importance to get to know credible information about the vaccine at the moment.

Origin of Sinopharm vaccine

With the limited data released worldwide, Chinese vaccines were always suspected for their reliability and effectiveness. However, the vaccine created by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) was the first domestic vaccine to receive general approval by China to administer against Covid–19. Sinopharm vaccine received its local approval in December 2020 and it has been given to millions of people in China and some other countries such as UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan and Hungary even before it was got approved by WHO.

Efficacy of the jab

The Sinopharm vaccine comes with an efficacy rate of 79% for symptomatic and hospitalized cases. A declared efficacy rate of 79% was based on the interim data of phase three trials. The vaccine comes in two doses and recommended to administer to people who are 18 and above. However, WHO noticed that there were a lesser number of elderly people who are above 60, included in the clinical trials so the efficacy rate of the vaccine for elderly people is uncertain and cannot be declared based on the clinical trial data. Anyway, there is no clear evidence that the vaccine has no efficacy in terms of elderly people as such. 

How Does Sinopharm vaccine work?

Sinopharm vaccine was developed in a more traditional way than the mRNA vaccines such as BioNtech/Pfizer and Moderna. Sinopharm is an inactivated vaccine that uses killed viral particles to expose the immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response. Basically what this type of vaccines does is, take the disease-carrying virus and destroys it using heat, chemicals or radiation.  According to WHO these types of vaccines take longer to make and may need two or three doses to be injected. This is similar to the Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech India (BBIL) in collaboration with the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

Why did WHO approve the Sinopharm vaccine?

Chinese Sinopharm is the first non-western Covid–19 vaccine to be approved by WHO. It is the fifth Covid-19 vaccine WHO granted its approval. So far WHO has only approved the vaccines developed by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. It is important to know the WHO’s reason for granting emergency approval to Sinopharm whereas the Russian vaccine Sputnik V is still under assessment. Recently, WHO confirmed that it had validated the safety, efficacy and quality of the Sinopharm vaccine to use as a Covid Vaccine and gave it emergency approval. Not only that but also, WHO believes that approving the Chinese vaccine will boost the Covid–19 vaccine access for countries who are keen to protect health workers and population segments at risk. As per WHO, the easy storage requirement of the Sinopharm vaccine has been identified as one of the main advantages to use it in low resource settings in developing countries. Chinese Sinopharm vaccine can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius, as same as the AstraZeneca vaccine. With the recent WHO approval, it is expected that Sinopharm will be used for the Covax program which provides vaccines for low and middle income earning countriesAs India has stopped exporting its Covid vaccines under the Covax program since mid-march due to meet its domestic requirements, WHO approval for the Chinese vaccine will be a great relief for developing countries.

Final Verdict

It seems like the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has it all. Including the WHO approval, the ability to use in low resource settings and a decent efficacy rate of 79% which is higher than the efficacy rate of AstraZeneca (efficacy rate is 76%). But it should not be neglected that not many elderly people (60 and above) were tested under clinical trials of Sinopharm, which depicts a grey area on whether the Sinopharm vaccine is safe to administer to an elderly person. When it comes to Sri Lanka, one of the fastest ageing countries in south Asia with more than 12.4% elderly population, we should be more cautious when administering Covid-19 vaccines to the senior-citizens. Another uncertainty arises from a statement made by China’s top disease control official last April 2021. He stated that the efficacy of the China’s vaccines was low. However, he later stated that his statement about vaccines efficacy was misinterpreted. Hence, with all the discussed pros and cons of the Chinese vaccine, it is fair to say “Use it at your own risk”. Are you taking the vaccine? Let us know on our social media channels, we are happy to know and will respond to all comments. Be Safe!