The United National Congress (UNC) has raised concerns of this country using vaccines out of China.
This follows a virtual bi-lateral meeting on Tuesday, between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and China’s President Xi Jinping. China offered to help TT access covid19 vaccines and this country has also pre-ordered the China created Sinopharm vaccine.
However, in a release to media, the UNC said “Sinopharm, the company which our Government is seeking assistance from in China, has been “slow and spotty” in releasing their trial data, compared to companies like Pfizer and Moderna. None of China’s three vaccine candidates used globally have publicly released their late-stage clinical trial data.”
They said “China’s pharmaceutical business practices also have raised concerns. In 2018, it emerged that one of China’s biggest vaccine companies falsified data to sell its rabies vaccines. That same year, news broke that a Sinopharm subsidiary, which is producing COVID-19 vaccines, had made substandard diphtheria vaccines used in mandatory immunizations.
International scientists are anxious to see results from final-stage testing published in a peer-reviewed science journal for all three Chinese companies. This data has not been forthcoming from the Chinese Vaccine Manufacturers.
The UNC said “It’s also unclear how the Chinese shots work against new strains of the virus that are emerging, especially a variant first identified in South Africa. Once a slew of mutations makes a particular strain better at infecting people, or more able to evade the antibodies generated from a vaccination or a previous infection, geneticists label it a variant of concern.”
Currently, there are three of these: B.1.1.7 (UK Variant), P.1 (Brazilian Variant) and B.1.351 (South African Variant).
Studies have found that the UK Variant, which has been reported in 94 countries, including the US, is 50% to 70% more contagious than its viral predecessors. Recent evidence suggests that people infected with this variant may face a higher risk of death than those who get other strains.
Research suggests that existing vaccines work to protect people from UK Variant but are less effective against South African and Brazilian Variants. That’s likely because those two variants share a mutation that can prevent the antibodies generated in response to the original virus from recognizing them.
Both Pfizer and Moderna said in January that they planned to develop and test booster shots to tackle the South African Variant. That means vaccinated people may need to get a follow-up shot. Until then, people who’ve been vaccinated or previously got COVID-19 could still be at risk of infection from the South African and Brazilian Variants.
The UNC said “Should we as a nation vaccinate the majority of our vulnerable population with a vaccine with no booster shot available to counteract the South African and Brazilian Variants, our borders will have to remain closed, as just one infected person will allow the Variant to infect our citizens, including those previously infected and those inoculated with this Covid-19 Vaccine.”
“This would mean a continued pandemic induced lockdown, continued hospitalizations and deaths, further business closures, job losses and the cancellation of Carnival 2022.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency use listing (EUL) procedure assesses the suitability of novel health products during public health emergencies. The objective is to make medicines, vaccines and diagnostics available as rapidly as possible to address the emergency, while adhering to stringent criteria of safety, efficacy and quality.
The EUL pathway involves a rigorous assessment of late phase II and phase III clinical trial data as well as substantial additional data on safety, efficacy, quality and a risk management plan. China’s Sinopharm Vaccine has applied for WHO Emergency Use Listing but has not been given EUL designation to date.
They said WHO listed the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine for emergency use on 31 December 2020. WHO also listed two versions of the AstraZeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, giving the green light for these vaccines to be rolled out globally through COVAX.
These vaccines are produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio (Republic of Korea) and the Serum Institute of India. This is the vaccine donated by the Government of Barbados to Trinidad and Tobago and is currently being used to vaccinate our frontline healthcare workers.
With China’s vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated with vaccines produced in China.
Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, hesitations over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries.