Colombo, July 29 (Daily Mirror) – Health experts are up in arms over a move by the government to purchase 13 million doses of the most expensive Sinovac vaccine which has a very low efficacy over the Delta variant spreading rapidly in Sri Lanka, the Daily Mirror learns.
According to senior sources, a Sinovac vaccine is being sold at an estimated 15 US dollars per dose which is extremely expensive for a country like Sri Lanka, where other vaccines have been obtained at a lesser rate, and doctors say this vaccine is the least effective.
Although the WHO has approved the Chinese made Sinovac vaccine for emergency use worldwide, there is very little data on the efficacy of this vaccine against the Delta variant.
Local experts say the only available data they have is a study done in Chile which showed satisfactory antibodies being formed but that was not against the highly contagious Delta variant. Currently, there is no available data regarding Sinovac’s effectiveness against the delta variant based either on large-scale clinical trials or real-world use.
Three senior doctors who were a part of the eight-member Expert Advisory Panel for COVID-19 vaccines of Sri Lanka’s drug regulator have already resigned citing disregard of their advice and findings by the NMRA Board over the Sinovac vaccines.
Sources said that while these three doctors resigned over the NMRA disregarding their advice and approving the Sinovac for emergency use, all eight members on the expert panel had agreed there was no necessity to purchase the Sinovac now that Sri Lanka was having a continuous supply of other vaccines including the Chinese made Sinopharm.
The only argument which the panel initially had was that four doctors agreed that not even a small quantity of Sinovac should be purchased by the government while the other four were of the view that a very small quantity should be purchased and administered to the public where the full immunology will then be administered.
However, now that Sri Lanka is getting a continuous supply of vaccines, all eight had agreed that Sinovac was not required. The Daily Mirror learns that moves are underway to purchase 13 million doses of Sinovac, much to the shock of health experts who say that it will be administered to at least 30 to 40 percent of the targeted population.
“This is a hell of a lot,” a senior health official said. with the Delta variant now being the dominant variant in the country, the efficacy this vaccine will bring in is highly questionable.
Further, experts have said that those who have received the Sinovac vaccines in other countries may have their antibodies going down in 6 months which may then require them to get a third booster shot.
In fact, a lab study done by Chinese researchers from blood samples from healthy adults aged between 18-59, which was released over the weekend but needs to be peer-reviewed has shown that the antibodies triggered by Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine declined below a key threshold from around six months after a second dose for most recipients, but a third shot had a strong booster effect.
However many countries in Asia are opting for the Chinese made vaccine because one of Sinovac’s main advantages is that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius, like the Oxford vaccine, which is made from a genetically engineered virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees.
It means that both Sinovac and the Oxford-astrazeneca vaccine are a lot more useful to developing countries which may not be able to store large amounts of vaccine at such low temperatures.
According to international reports, more than 80 countries are using China’s Sinovac vaccine, including many in Asia, among them Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
However, some of these countries who have high vaccination rates, are still seeing a surge in infection numbers.
According to the BBC, Chile re-imposed a curfew and brought back restrictions on travelling in response to the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than previous variants.
More than 70% of Chileans are fully vaccinated, most with the Sinovac vaccine.
Thailand has changed its vaccine policy to mix China’s Sinovac with the AstraZeneca vaccine in a bid to boost protection after hundreds of medical workers caught Covid despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac.
Meanwhile in Indonesia, the main doctors and nurses’ association said at least 30 healthcare workers died despite receiving two doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
The country is now planning to switch to different Covid-19 vaccines for second doses or administer booster shots to increase efficacy. In Sri Lanka, the Delta variant has now become the dominating variant with a surge in infections in recent days.
Doctors have said that the local health sector is exhausted with the rapidly spreading Delta variant and hospitals are running out of beds.
The demand for oxygen has risen considerably and when inquired, the government said there is no shortage of oxygen in the country presently.
But talks have been held with other countries to import oxygen in case Sri Lanka requires it urgently, the Daily Mirror learns. Doctors have said the present number of positive patients being reported is higher than what was even reported during the peak of the third wave.
With other countries currently facing the Delta spread opting out of using the Sinovac vaccines, it is highly questionable why the Sri Lankan government is opting to purchase such a large number of doses despite the objections raised by local experts.