The World Health Organisation (WHO) has given emergency approval for the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm Friday. This is the first jab developed by a non-Western country to get a WHO nod.
However, the jab has already been given to millions of people in China as well as other countries in the world.
The WHO had previously approved five other vaccines produced by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
Individual health regulators in various countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia have approved Chinese jabs for emergency use. Bangladesh also approved the Sinopharm vaccine made by China last week. Let's look at the jab.
What is Bangladesh's progress in purchasing China's Sinopharm vaccine?
Bangladesh has decided to buy the vaccine under a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement with China.
On Saturday morning, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told The Business Standard that they have already started discussion and communication with its Chinese counterpart.
"We will need 50 to 60 lakh doses of vaccine every month. It is our demand," said Zahid Maleque. "It also depends on how many doses China can provide us. We do not yet know how many doses China can provide us," said the health minister, adding that a batch of five lakh doses of the vaccine will come to Bangladesh on Wednesday as a grant.
The health minister also said that the price of the vaccine has not yet been fixed and he does not know when the vaccine will start coming.
"We want to get the vaccine as soon as possible, but it depends on our negotiation," said Zahid Maleque.
What will happen to those who have taken the other vaccine?
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Hossain, an adviser of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said that those who have already taken the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will not be able to take another vaccine.
People who have taken the first dose of the vaccine will get the same vaccine. The government is trying to get the same Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from other sources.
All people will be given an opportunity to get the second dose. As Bangladesh is now running short of the Oxford -AstraZeneca, some people may get delayed by two or three days in getting their second dose.
"Many European countries are not using the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. They are giving back the vaccine to WHO. We can bring the vaccine through WHO as well as through bilateral negotiations," said Dr. Mohammad Mushtuq Hossain. He assured that people will get the vaccine within the required time frame.
Was it a bad decision to turn down China's proposal before?
Earlier in August 2020, Bangladesh approved the human trial of Chinese company Sinovac Biotech's vaccine. However, later in mid-October, it got canceled as the government refused to co-fund the domestic trials of the vaccine.
Noted virologist Professor Nazrul Islam has said that not allowing Chinese company Sinovac Biotech's vaccine trial in Bangladesh was a wrong decision.
"They not only wanted to carry out trials but they also wanted to produce the vaccine in our country," said Professor Nazrul. "If the vaccine had been produced in our country, there would have been no need for us to depend on India."
"The market price of a single dose of the vaccine is double the price of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. If China could set up a factory in our country, we could buy the vaccine at a very cheap rate now," Professor Nazrul said on Saturday. "Now we are uncertain that we will get the vaccine on time."
Which other countries are purchasing Chinese vaccines?
Many other countries including some Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines have entered into a contract with Sinovac to buy the vaccine. In January 2021, Indonesia rolled out a mass vaccination campaign with the vaccine.
Turkey has also given permission for its emergency use. The Chinese company has reportedly secured deals with Brazil and Chile as well.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have also given a nod of approval for the Sinopharm vaccine.
How effective is it?
The Chinese study published in the renowned scientific journal The Lancet has information from the first and second phase trials of CoronaVac in China.
According to a BBC report, Zhu Fengcai, one of the paper's authors, said those results which were based on 144 participants in the phase one trial and 600 in the phase two trial - meant the vaccine was "suitable for emergency use."
In various countries, CoronaVac has been undergoing phase three trials. Interim data from late-stage trials in Turkey and Indonesia have shown that the vaccine was 91.25% and 65.3% effective respectively.
Researchers in Brazil initially said it was 78% effective in their clinical trials, but in January 2021 revised that figure to 50.4% after including more data in their calculations.
Earlier in November, their trials were briefly halted after the reported death of a volunteer but resumed after the death was found to have no links to the vaccine.
Sinovac has been approved for emergency use in high-risk groups in China since July.