Zimbabwe rolled out its Covid Vaccination on the 18th of February at Wilkins Hospital Harare.
There have been questions and concerns about vaccines and there hasn’t been enough information of the right kind leaving room for far too much speculation and transparency.
First a disclaimer: While I am not qualified to give a professional opinion and one must exercise their due caution in coming to a decision about the vaccine programme I will share on some of what I have learnt from internet research.
SinoPharm vs SinoVac
There seems to be a confusion between the two especially having the latin prefix for China Sino- in their names. However both vaccines are similar in nature.
The Sinopharm vaccine BBIBP-CorV was developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group Corp. (Sinopharm) a state-owned enterprise in China in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Institute of Biological Products.
Sinovac is a private firm with a vaccine called coronavac. Both these vaccines were developed using inactivated COVID-19 virus.
How the vaccine works
Virus inactivation is a classic way for producing vaccines. The killed virus is immunogenic that means it can be identified by the immune system of a human body which induces an immune response and thus produce antibodies. This teaches the body how to recognize and respond quickly when it encounters the virus.
Sinopharm CNBG’s Covid-19 vaccine BBIBP-CorV is derived from Vero cell which goes through cultivation, inactivation and purification.
How safe is vaccination?
The virus is inactivated and cannot infect you, however mild side effects can be experienced.
It is normal to have certain reactions after a vaccination: There may be redness, swelling or pain around the injection site. Fatigue, fever, headache and aching limbs are also not uncommon in the first three days after vaccination.
Its unclear how long the protection from the virus will last and even after vaccination one should still exercise safety protocols, social distancing, avoiding gatherings and masking up.
How effective is Sinopharm?
Long term studies show vaccines which use inactivated viruses usually have a high efficacy.
Sinopharm vaccine BBIBP-CorV offers a broad-spectrum protection and has good cross-neutralization effect on strains from different regions of the world and had a projected efficacy of 79.34% from Sinopharm’s research data on 30 December.
The Lancet Journal has results from phase1/2 clinical trials: Safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in healthy adults aged 18–59 years: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 1/2 clinical trial
According to Reuters quoting UAE’s health ministry, the Sinopharm vaccine has proven to be 86% effective in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease after the interim results of its phase three trial.
Early this year, Egypt started vaccinating medical staff at public hospitals, armed forces and police with the Chinese vaccine and its health minister said clinical trials had proved it’s safe and effective. Morrocco has also administered the drug with no problems.
In an interview with Mr. Liu Jingzhen, Chairman of Sinopharm published in China’s state media Zhongguo Jijian Jiancha Bao (China Disciplinary Supervision Newspaper) the vaccine’s efficacy has been better than expected and over 10 million doses vaccinated while no reports of serious adverse reactions received… By the end of last year, nearly 100 million doses had been produced and production is expected to reach 1 billion doses this year.
Will Sinopharm work on the South African Variant?
South Africa had to stop its roll-out of AstraZeneca after data showed that vaccine would not work against their variant and have launched a vaccination program using Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
There is no data to answer this question for now, I am not even sure we have assessed the variants of COVID in Zimbabwe, if there are I am yet to come across that data.
But from virology studies, viruses that use an inactivated virus means the body’s immune response can recoginse a broad spectrum of mutations and the research data from Sinopharm has shown it to work against different strains, although none have been the South African variant.
Can we trust the vaccine?
There is not enough independently verifiable information for a complete answer to this question and this vaccine seems to have blurred the line between phase 3 trials and vaccine programme roll-out.
This makes it unclear whether the vaccine rollout is part of a clinical trial or not and were it so, it would help if they were transparent about it so that those volunteering could make a more informed decision.
There is a gap in information which is being filled with misinformation and speculation, and public trust in the vaccine and government is generally low.
The Vice President who is also the Minister Of Health was the first person to get vaccinated when the vaccination programme was rolled out, in a move set to boost confidence in the vaccine… If the Vice President can take it, its safe right
Government has said many more doses beyond this first batch will be necessary to achieve herd immunity in Zimbabwe, 60 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated.
Covid vaccine myths
A document circulating on the internet said to be a guide/manual from Sinopharm
The pamphlet is actually guidance issued by the Seychelles government, which has begun using the Sinopharm vaccine.
Governments adopt policies on different vaccines, based on available product information and guidelines given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other experts. WHO currently has not issued guidelines specific to Sinopharm usage.
Now, what is Zimbabwe’s policy with regards to this vaccine? I know the vaccine is voluntary and will not be forced on anyone…
Will I be taking the vaccine.?
(Un)Fortunately I am not in the group of those who are first in line to receive this vaccine so I will try not to lose sleep over it.
**Will be updating with any new information of interest