PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad –The Pan American Health Organization has said that the Chinese-made Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) after “rigorous evaluation by independent experts” as it sought to re-assure the public about the efficacy of the vaccine.
The move by PAHO follows a front page story in the Sunday Express newspaper which said it had utilized the services of a local laboratory “to conduct antibody titer tests to analyze the level of antibodies in persons who are fully vaccinated with the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.
The paper said it funded the tests at TT$750 (One TT dollar=US$0.16 cents) each and that on November 25, blood samples were taken from two 60-year-old females, one fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca, second dose on June 23, this year, and the other, fully vaccinated with Sinopharm, second dose on June 28, 2021.
The newspaper article has been criticized by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, who said “this must be the worst piece of irresponsible journalism I have ever seen.
“In a pandemic, where thousands of doctors and many international agencies and hundreds of thousands of newspapers and other media entities are present and reporting, the Express has made the discovery as published, to undermine a vaccine which might very well be a victim of geopolitics.
“Where is the science here? Who are the people responsible for this data set being published in this way? It’s not only embarrassing it is downright destructive and worrisome.
“Who will be fired here? To attempt to undermine a nation’s vaccination program in a pandemic is nothing short of criminal,” Rowley wrote on his Facebook page.
The Chinese Embassy here in a statement defended the vaccine saying the conclusions of the Sunday Express newspaper were based on a “crude and amateurish study” with only four samples, and is thus a complete farce.
“We are glad to see that the medical lab referred to in the report immediately issued a disclaimer against this report, emphasizing that, “scientific analysis and opinions should be left for professionals and those qualified to do so and must be based on facts”.
The Embassy described the story as a “most irresponsible media report,” adding that the article blatantly ignored many world-recognized scientific research, distorted the facts, violated journalism ethics, created public panic and meant to undermine the resolve and actions of the Trinidad and Tobago people in their “brave battle” against the pandemic.
“We deeply deplore and firmly oppose this media report, urge relevant parties to immediately rectify its wrongdoing, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path,” the embassy said. ”
In its article, the Sunday Express noted that in the case of the female vaccinated with AstraZeneca, the report stated that based on the interpretation of results obtained on the Vitros Immunodiagnostics and Vitros Integrated System, the patient value obtained was 480. It said the female vaccinated with Sinopharm patient value was 32.9.
“On December 2, 2021, the samples from two additional persons were examined: a 56-year-old male who is fully vaccinated with Sinopharm (second dose on July 3, 2021), and a 38-year-old female fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca, second dose on June 30, 2021. The male had a patient value of 9.28, whilst the female had a value of 503,” the newspaper added.
In its statement, PAHO said that updated recommendations were published on October 28 regarding the Sinopharm and “according to this document, Sinopharm has an efficacy rate of 79 per cent against symptomatic disease and 79 per cent against hospitalization.
It said “minimal and extremely rare adverse events have been reported since the vaccine’s introduction in the general population”.
PAHO said 69 countries have approved the use of the Sinopharm vaccine including the United Kingdom. It said among the countries that recognize the Sinopharm vaccine as valid proof of vaccination are Austria, Australia, Cyprus, Canada, Finland Greece, Iceland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
“PAHO/WHO deems a person fully vaccinated after receiving the full series of two doses or one dose (of the one dose) EUL approved vaccines. Without the two doses, a person is not considered fully vaccinated and is susceptible to severe disease, hospitalization and death. Millions of people have been fully protected by the Sinopharm vaccine around the world and to date, there is no data to suggest that the Sinopharm vaccine is ineffective against COVID-19. “
PAHO said in October, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a recommendation that persons aged 60 or older who received two doses of Sinopharm receive a third dose of any EUL-approved vaccine, since the initial immune response is not deemed sufficient.
“Regarding the Sinopharm’s efficacy against variants, available data show that Sinopharm maintains strong protection against the Alpha and Beta variants. There are no studies that test the effectiveness of Sinopharm against Delta. At this time, there are very limited data on the effectiveness of any COVID-19 vaccine against the Omicron variant.
“PAHO/WHO reassures the public that all EUL-approved vaccines are proven to be effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death. Infection can be prevented through booster doses in the case of Sinopharm AND the rigorous application of the mitigation measures: washing hands, wearing masks and the practice of physical distancing. One does not work without the other<” PAHO added.