As Pakistan receives first COVID vaccine shipment from China questions arise about its efficacy and side effects

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Pakistan received first shipment of China’s Sinopharm vaccine on Monday, the health ministry has confirmed. However, concerns have arisen due to the Chinese vaccine’s weak efficacy and questions around its safety.

A Pakistani military aircraft on Monday landed in Islamabad carrying first shipment of vaccine donated by China. Pakistan’s health minister Faisal Sultan said the shipment was first batch of half a million vaccines that have been donated by China.

Sinopharm and Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine are two major Chinese vaccines that have been exported to some countries, mostly free of charge. The vaccines have been developed by Chinese state-owned companies.

However, concerns have arisen around the trials, efficacy and the possible side effects of the Chinese vaccines.

The Chinese vaccines are inactivated vaccines, which work by using killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to virus. It is a traditional method.

In contrast, the vaccines developed in west such as Moderna and Pfizer are based on the genetic code model, which trigger the body to make viral proteins, but not the whole virus.

The Chinese vaccines are still in phase three trial and the final results about its efficacy are still awaited, but the vaccine has already been distributed in millions to several countries.

The Brazilian authorities earlier in January had confirmed that the Chinese vaccine is only 50.4% effective. However, other trials have showed 30-60% efficacy. In contrast Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax vaccine, to be made by Serum Institute of India, have nearly 90% efficacy.

Mr Yin, an official of Chinese vaccine company Sinovac, had also confirmed after the phase two trials of the vaccine that “fatigue or discomfort” was observed in some of the cases.

In Peru, the authorities halted clinical trials of the Chinese vaccine in December after one patient suffered paralysis in his arms as a result of vaccination. 

One leading scientists has said that “it was difficult to make comments about the vaccine’s efficacy at that point in time “given the limited information available”.

Interestingly all the phase three trials of the vaccine were conducted outside China, mostly in poor countries.

Many have questioned the rushed approval of Chinese vaccines in Pakistan and several have compared it to guinea pig tests.

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