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Dhaka Tribune

Is it time to take a look at Chinese and Russian vaccines?

Food for thought, especially given the supply issues throughout the world

Update : 04 Apr 2021, 08:18 PM

Due to the new coronavirus, many countries around the world have come to a standstill with lockdown measures. At the end of last year, it was thought that a single vaccine could change the whole picture.

In reality, a different situation was seen. Commercial production of the vaccine began with "vaccine nationalism." Wealthy nations bought large quantities of vaccines before production. The poor countries fell into crisis.

When different countries are uncertain about vaccination to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic, it is possible to ensure that a significant number of vaccines are obtained with the foresight and prudence of the government and policy makers.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, our vaccination program was started in February. The government has been able to provide the first dose of vaccine to more than 5 million people.

The second dose is scheduled to start in the country from Thursday.

However, as the manufacturer could not provide the vaccine as per the agreement, a kind of uncertainty has been created with the second dose vaccine.

Meanwhile, both new infections and deaths have increased in the country. The number of Covid-19 cases in the country has exceeded 600,000. In this situation, it is important to work hard to solve the uncertainty of vaccination.

Shortages loom

Vaccination crisis is going on in different countries of the world. The European Union also threatened to suspend vaccine exports to Britain due to tensions between Britain and other European countries over the vaccine.

Britain and the European Union are working together to resolve the ongoing crisis over vaccine exports and improve relations between the two entities.

Similarly, various countries including Canada and Japan have suffered from the vaccine crisis.

Alternatives

Finding alternative sources for vaccines is now very important. And here the names of Chinese and Russian vaccines are coming up.

The western media has long sought to suggest that Chinese and Russian vaccines are inferior to Moderna, Pfizer-Bintech, or AstraZeneca vaccines.

However, there is evidence to suggest that these vaccines may be effective.

In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Achal Prabhala and Chee Yoke Ling explain how they believe the western media is underplaying the Chinese and Russian vaccines.


Also Read - No money, no vaccine: Poor countries in a quandary


Prabhala is an Indian public health activist promoting wider distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and Chee, a Malaysian public interest lawyer, worked for a decade on improving access to medicines in China.

The top medical journal The Lancet published interim results of late-stage tests this week that reportedly showed that the efficacy rate of the Sputnik V Russian vaccine was above 90%. The Gamaleya Center and the Russian Direct Investment Fund confirmed the information in mid-December.

Approvals

China’s Sinopharm vaccines have been approved by the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Serbia, Morocco, Hungary, and Pakistan, and as of mid-January, 1.8 million people in the UAE had received it.

Another Chinese vaccine has been adopted and approved by Bolivia, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, and Chile.

Sputnik V will be distributed in more than a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America.

When these countries tested the vaccines, they made informed decisions based on evidence of safety and efficacy published by Chinese and Russian producers -- much of which was also published in peer-reviewed scientific journals such as The Lancet and JAMA Network -- or their own after independent trials.

In the face of a major vaccine crisis and delivery delays, France, Spain, and Germany have reportedly now begun talking about possibly ordering Chinese and Russian vaccines.


Also Read - Covid-19: The global search for vaccines


China and Russia started inoculating some of their citizens last year without efficacy results from late-stage, or Phase 3, clinical trials. India has done the same recently with Covaxin, a vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, causing a national furor.

All three governments have defended these actions as emergency measures necessary to accelerate the production and distribution of vaccines. That explanation may seem inadequate to some, but the point is arguable.

Test results

And now there is significant information about the reliability of Chinese and Russian vaccines. Trial results in the UAE in early December put the effectiveness of the Sinopharmvaccine at 86%; Others, in China, at 79%.

Sinovac’s vaccine effectiveness is reportedly 91% in Turkish trials, 65% in Indonesian trials, and over 50% in Brazilian trials. This latest finding immediately made international headlines, although researchers at the Botantan Institute, the state centre in Sao Paulo, conducted those experiments, at the same time identifying that the vaccine had a 78% efficacy rate in mild to moderate cases of Covid-19.

No doubt, more information about the Chinese and Russian vaccines must be released to the public, but the same still goes to some extent for the leading western vaccines. Not all the details or raw data for trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been made available, not even to researchers.

The fact is that no Covid-19 vaccine has been developed or released as transparently as it should have been. And while China and Russia may have botched their rollouts more than some western companies, that doesn’t necessarily mean their vaccines are shoddy.

The evidence suggesting that the Chinese and Russian vaccines might be reliable should provide food for thought, especially given the supply issues throughout the world.

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