Govts race to vaccinate with Chinese jabs

2021-01-21 12:05:01

  A medical worker receives the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Monday. TOFIK BABAYEV/XINHUA Countries across the globe accelerate mass inoculation programs to ease public concerns Mass inoculation programs using Chinese vaccines against COVID-19 are rolling out across continents while more countries plan options, reaffirming China's global public good promise. Tuesday saw Serbia using Chinese vaccines and Iraq granting approval, while several other countries in Europe, Asia and Africa are working on agreements. More than a dozen countries have already started rolling out large-scale vaccination programs with vaccines of Chinese origin, or have secured deals, with senior officials gracing the stage to accelerate emergency mass inoculation programs in order to ease public concerns. Iraqi Ministry of Health spokesman Sayf al-Badr said the Chinese vaccine, developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, conforms to regulatory standards, and therefore the Iraqi state approved it for use inside Iraq. Moreover, Iraq also approved the emergency use of the British AstraZeneca vaccine on Tuesday. In Belgrade, Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar received Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, becoming the first person to be vaccinated in the country. One million doses of the vaccine arrived in Serbia and were welcomed at the Belgrade Airport by President Aleksandar Vucic. After his vaccination, Loncar told Serbians to get vaccinated as that is "the only way" for Serbia to fight the novel coronavirus. Ukraine is looking to start its vaccination program in the first half of this year with Sinopharm's vaccine. The Chinese firm has partnered with local pharmaceutical company Lekhim Group on the purchase of 5 million CoronaVac doses and becoming the exclusive supplier of this vaccine to Ukraine. Hungary, which has criticized the European Union's handling of the slow vaccine rollout, is looking elsewhere to secure Chinese and Russian vaccines. It is reported that an agreement is being discussed with Sinopharm. Emergency use In Africa, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed announced that Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine has been officially licensed for emergency use. Egypt received the first batch of vaccines on Dec 10. The minister said the batch went through four tests conducted by its local drug regulator. Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan kicked off the Indian Ocean archipelago's national vaccine drive by being the first person to receive the Sinopharm vaccine on Jan 10. Dr Ahmed Ogwell, deputy director of the Africa Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, told Xinhua News Agency that they have been having discussions with Chinese developers of COVID-19 vaccine. In Asia, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan approved Sinopharm's vaccines for emergency use on Monday. The National Institute of Health said some 17,500 people have volunteered to take part in trials underway at five different sites in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. A health official said that Pakistan is also negotiating with other vaccine makers, including China's CanSino Biologics. Also on Monday, Azerbaijan's senior health officials took their first dose of anti-coronavirus vaccines developed by Sinovac, marking the beginning of mass vaccinations prioritizing healthcare workers and those in government. Azerbaijan has secured 4 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, and those who have received the COVID-19 shot will get a certificate. Asia rollout Turkey, Indonesia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been using vaccines of Chinese origin. The Philippines and Malaysia have already secured doses from China, while Thailand, Cambodia, and Iran are among those discussing possibilities. The UAE's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority tweeted on Jan 19 that more than 2 million people have been inoculated in the Arab nation. Malaysian pharmaceutical group Pharmaniaga Berhad has struck a deal with Sinovac to purchase 14 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. It is also in talks with CanSino, as well as developers from other countries, on securing more vaccine sources. Thailand, which is seeing a rebound in cases, is eyeing to buy 2 million vaccines from Sinovac, with the first batch of 200,000 doses expected to arrive in the country next month. In western Asia, Iran is looking at the possibility of 2.6 million doses of vaccines arriving from Russia and China before the Iranian year ends on March 20. In Latin America, as the mass vaccination campaign gains momentum in Brazil with CoronaVac injections, other countries are reportedly considering options for the same vaccine. Regarding concerns from the public, the Philippines' Undersecretary for Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology Rowena Cristina Guevara said: "Efficacy can also be analyzed as to whether the vaccine will protect against mild, moderate or severe COVID-19." Vaccine efficacy refers to the percentage reduction in disease incidence in a vaccinated group compared to an unvaccinated group under optimal conditions such as a randomized clinical trial. Guevara said there is a misconception that COVID-19 vaccines are not safe because they were developed so quickly, adding that the comparatively short development time period was due to unprecedented global effort to collaborate and invest in making vaccines that are needed to control the pandemic. Xinhua and Prime Sarmiento contributed to this story.