As China's Sinovac fails to tame the Wuhan virus, Bahrain, UAE and other countries opt for Pfizer booster
07 June 2021
Bahrain, which has seen a sudden resurgence of Wuhan virus cases following a mass immunisation drive with Chinese-made Sinovac and Sinopham vaccines, has abandoned the vaccines and has started giving booster shots to vulnerable citizens using Pfizer doses.
As concerns grew over the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines, Bahrain announced that it would start giving additional immunisation to its citizens by inoculating them with Pfizer and BioNTech SE vaccine to counter the sharp surge in the Wuhan virus, according to reports.
Bahrain was one of the first countries to buy China’s Sinopharm vaccine, last year, even though there were serious doubts about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
Bahrain’s undersecretary of health Waleed Khalifa al Manea, however, said the Sinopharm vaccine, which has accounted for more than 60 per cent of Bahrain’s innnoculations so far, provided a high degree of protection. He said nearly 90 per cent of people infected in the current Wuhan virus wave had not been vaccinated.
Dr al Manea also said that Bahrain residents who are over 50 years of age and have chronic illnesses have been asked to get a booster shot six months after their complete Sinopharm vaccination. The government started offering the boosters at the end of May, he said. The Bahrain government will also go for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to vaccinate its unvaccinated residents. However, they will also continue to offer the choice of Sinopharm to those who prefer the Chinese vaccine, Dr. al Manea said.
According to the Bahrain News Agency, 1,936 fresh cases were recorded on Thursday, taking the total tally in the country to more than 240,000, with over a thousand deaths.
The peer-reviewed results of Sinopharm’s efficacy were published on 26 May in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found 78 per cent efficacy against symptomatic disease for one of two versions of the Sinopharm vaccine. However, there was no conclusive evidence to suggest the vaccine was effective for all age groups.
In a separate trial in Serbia, 29 per cent of 150 participants were found to have zero antibodies against the virus even after three months. In addition, the average age of the people who participated in the Serbian study was higher than 65.
“The Sinopharm vaccine is not immunogenic enough, and it appears that its impact is especially low on elderly recipients,” noted Olgica Djurkovic-Djakovic, the head of the research.
However, the two Chinese-made vaccines – Sinopharm and Sinovac - have already received emergency approval from the World Health Organisation.
The two vaccines are manufactured with inactivated virus, a long-used technique for making vaccines.
Reports said Seychelles, a small island nation in the Indian Ocean and the world’s most vaccinated nation as well as the UAE have seen a recent surge in Wuhan virus cases after extensive use of the Chinese vaccines. Seychelles health ministry said it is considering vaccinating its people with a third booster shot.
The UAE said it has already began administering a third booster shot of Sinopharm to some residents who failed to develop antibodies with the first two. In fact, Sinopharm had carried out a sophisticated trial in UAE and based on the UAE-led clinical trials in the Middle East, Sinopharm had also signed contracts to sell 175 million doses to countries like Egypt, Hungary, and Argentina while donating another 18 million to other small countries.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are among several nation-heads who have publicly taken the Sinopharm jab.