Health Ministry requests more info on Chinese vaccine after effectiveness rate revised down

PHOTO: Hakan Nural for UnSplash

Thailand’s Public Health Ministry has called for more information from the makers of the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine, after its effectiveness rating was revised downwards by researchers in Brazil. The Sinovac Biotech jab was originally confirmed as 78% effective in trials in the South American country, but that has now changed to just over 50%.

The research team at Brazil’s Butantan Institute say the discrepancy is a result of the higher rate not including patients who recorded “very mild” symptoms and did not need any medical treatment. They insist the vaccine is still 78% effective in preventing mild cases that do need treatment and 100% effective at preventing moderate to serious infections.

Meanwhile, Supakit Sirilak from Thailand’s Department of Medical Sciences says the government still plans to take delivery of 2 million doses of the vaccine, starting with 200,000 next month. The next shipment of 800,000 doses will arrive by the end of March, followed by the final shipment of 1 million doses by the end of April. Medical workers, healthcare volunteers and elderly and other “high risk” groups will be prioritised to receive the vaccine. In total, the ministry hopes to vaccinate 70% of the population with the goal of achieving herd immunity.

Supakit says Sinovac Biotech has already been sent a request for additional information on the efficacy and safety of the vaccine, which he says is in line with the Food and Drug Administration approval process.

“We are waiting for answers, but please understand that the vaccine’s efficacy is only at an initial stage after mass human trials. The confirmed result might take about a year or 1 and a half years. Sinovac has applied traditional technology, using killed viral particles to create the body’s immune system.”

Supakit says around 100,000 medical workers and military staff have already received the Chinese vaccine, without any adverse effects being reported, pointing out that other vaccines may not be received until later in the year. The government is expected to take delivery of 26 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine by mid-2021.

“That is the factor that we have seriously thought about, whether we can wait until that time. We have relied on the World Health Organisation suggestion that 50% efficiency is enough for emergency use. We are still committed to the original plan to get the vaccine by next month.”

The government has also given the nod to local administrations who wish to purchase their own vaccine supplies, provided the jabs have FDA approval. The local administrative organisation in the southern province of Yala is calling on local bodies to obtain their own vaccine supplies. The mayor of Nakhon Yala, Pongsak Yingchoncharoen, says his local authority is budgeting 100 million baht to buy enough doses for 70,000 residents. The mayor of Nakhon Nonthaburi municipality, Somnuek Thanadechakul, has also confirmed a plan to buy vaccines and is budgeting 260 million baht for procurement.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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