While the European and Middle Eastern nations have started vaccinating their citizen with Covid-19 vaccines, there is serious complicacy for most of the nations in Asia and Africa, who are yet to get firm assurance from any of the manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccine.
According to news item, amongst Asian nations, Israel has successfully procured sufficient quantity of the vaccine and by the middle of January, almost fifty percent of the Israelis will be vaccinated.
China has not only started vaccinating domestically, it also is supplying Covid-19 vaccines to a number of foreign countries. Turkey, for example is one of the countries that already has received consignment of vaccine from China.
Meanwhile, according to media reports, Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has given in Bangladesh has granted permission to a local company named Globe Biotech Limited to start production of Covid-19 vaccine named Bongavax for clinical trial, meaning this vaccine, if proved effective, can only be available for mass distribution by the end of this year.
Dr Asif Mahmud, in-charge of Molecular and Cell Biology unit and assistant manager of Globe Biotech Limited told reporters that the Bangladeshi vaccine inventor obtained permission for beginning the trial process on December 28, 2020.
Dr Asif said: “We have received the license to produce the vaccine for clinical trials. I will now submit our protocol to the Bangladesh Medical Research Council for clinical trials next week. We hope to start the clinical trials within this month”.
It may be mentioned here that, Globe Biotech is the only Bangladeshi firm in the race to develop an effective and safe Covid-19 vaccine, seen as the only way out of the pandemic crisis that has claimed at least 1.86 million lives and infected more than 86.46 million globally. Initially called ‘Bancovid’, the company in December changed the name of its vaccine candidate to ‘Bangavax’.
The experimental COVID-19 vaccine features in the World Health
Organization’s list of draft landscape of candidate vaccines.
Globe had announced the development of the candidate in July last year. In October, the company said the vaccine proved to be “effective” and “completely safe” after trials on rats.
A long way for Bangavax
According to experts, although Globe Biotech obtained the permission on December 28 last year, it will require at least 6-9 months for the trial process to determine the percentage of the efficacy of the vaccine, meaning it won’t be available to Bangladeshis before the end of 2021.
For a densely populated country like Bangladesh, Covid-19 vaccine is an urgent need and the country cannot afford to wait for months to start vaccinating the people.
Chinese Sinopharm vaccine
Report in the South China Morning Post said quoting Ministry of Industry and Information sources that, China can produce 1 billion doses this year of the newly approved vaccine against Covid 19 developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of the state-owned conglomerate Sinopharm, according to the.
The ministry also told SCMP that there would be enough vaccines for mass inoculation domestically, though it did not specify how many doses it is expecting.
Eighteen vaccine makers in China are ramping up production capacity, the ministry said, for all five vaccine types China is using or researching.
China has previously identified the five types: inactivated vaccines; adenovirus vector vaccines, protein subunit vaccines, mRNA vaccines and vaccines using attenuated flu virus as vectors. Only the Sinopharm inactivated vaccine has released efficacy data so far.
China has already agreed to provide vaccines to a large number of countries. A flurry of orders also rushed in after China gave conditional approval in late December to the Sinopharm product, which is an inactivated vaccine that uses a dead virus to help the body develop an immune response.
The SCMP report further said, China will be pressed to meet the demands of the massive export orders while also supplying enough two-dose vaccinations to most of its 1.3 billion citizens to achieve herd immunity.
In September, Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said that mass inoculation domestically was not necessary because transmission of Covid-19 was under control.
Efficacy rate of Sinopharm
According to CGTN report, the vaccine, developed by Sinopharm’s subsidiary – China National Biotec Group (CNBG) – has proven to be effective and safe in large-scale clinical trials in a dozen countries.
The Chinese vaccine’s efficacy rate of 79.34 percent is based on interim results of phase III clinic trials that covered more than 60,000 participants from 125 countries, Wu Yonglin, a senior executive at Sinopharm, said at the conference. Detailed data of the trials will be released at a later date and published in scientific journals, according to Wu.
While many people cheered for the vaccine’s go-ahead, some expressed doubt whether the 79 percent efficacy rate is sufficient at a time when US drug makers Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna have each said their coronavirus vaccines are around 95 percent effective.
Two other global vaccine frontrunners also reported different data. Russia said its Sputnik V vaccine is 92 percent effective, while Britain’s AstraZeneca reported an average efficacy rate of 70 percent. All of these vaccines have won official approval for mass inoculation in different countries.
What is vaccine efficacy?
Vaccine efficacy measures how well a vaccine works in preventing inoculated people from getting infected by a disease in controlled clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It measures the reduction in disease incidence in a vaccinated group compared with an unvaccinated group. For example, if a vaccine has an efficacy rate of 80 percent, it means people injected with the vaccine are 80 percent protected from getting infected, compared with those who are completely vulnerable without it.
However, there is a difference between efficacy rates obtained in clinical trials and effectiveness – the real-world protection rate of a vaccine when it is rolled out.
Generally speaking, a vaccine’s real-world effectiveness tends to be slightly lower than its efficacy, because of multiple influencing factors, such as how an individual’s immune system responds, whether the vaccine was stored at the correct temperature, and whether people stick to the optimum dosing schedule and timetable.
According to the WHO, not a single vaccine can be 100 percent effective. But medical regulators do have an efficacy threshold for vaccines before they can be granted market access.
Both the WHO and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend COVID-19 vaccines with an efficacy rate above 50 percent, which is also the threshold required by China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA).
So far, all the vaccines that have been given the green light for mass inoculation in different countries reported efficacy rates well above the threshold.
Li Zhongming, a Chinese vaccine expert, told Science and Technology Daily that vaccines developed with different technical approaches would have different efficacy rates. As long as a vaccine has an efficacy rate above 60 percent, it is good to go.
He also said that at least 60 percent of the whole population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Nepal unintended to Chinese vaccine
During his visit, Nepalese Foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali is expected to get a clear commitment from New Delhi for supply of over 12 million doses of the coronavirus vaccines produced in India. Nepal has offers from China to supply its version of the Sinovac vaccine. During discussions with Indian officials, Nepalese officials have, however, said that the Oli government preferred to get its vaccine supplies from New Delhi.
Nepal’s ambassador to India Nilamber Acharya has already held several rounds of meetings with Indian vaccine manufacturers and government officials. His last meeting was on Tuesday with Dr V Krishna Mohan, executive director of Bharat Biotech that is producing the indigenously-developed Covid 19 vaccine.
Bangladesh looking for vaccines from India
Indian newspaper The Economic Times quoting “highly-placed sources” said, India has cleared controversy over the ban on exports of Covid-19 vaccines and affirmed that the country’s highest leadership is committed to deliver vaccines to Bangladesh as assured.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that his country will make vaccines for all humanity and that is a commitment at the highest level.
Serum Institute of India (SII) has signed a pact with Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited, under which Beximco has invested in SII’s effort to bring out an approved vaccine for Covid-19. Beximco is the exclusive distributor of SII for Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh. Relevant authorities in Dhaka have also approved SII vaccines.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, “Vaccine will arrive at the appropriate time. It will come towards the end of this month — India and Bangladesh will get Serum Institute’s vaccine at the same time”.
Serum trying to extort money
According to media reports, Bangladesh government paid Serum around US$59 million in advance for the vaccine shots. But, despite the fact of signing agreement and receiving payment in advance, Serum’s Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla told the Press Trust of India that his company will be supplying Covid-19 vaccine to India at a “more affordable price” of US$3-4. He said, “We want the vaccine to be affordable and accessible to all. The government of India will receive it at a far more affordable price of $3-4, since they will be buying in a larger volume”.
Bangladesh has purchased three crore shots of Oxford vaccine from Serum for US$4 per shot, according to the tripartite agreement signed between the government, Serum and Beximco on November 5 last year.
However, each shot will cost the government $5 as it has to pay Beximco, the local agent of Serum, 80 cents in service charge and another 20 cents for transporting the vaccine shots to the government vaccination centers.
Demand of Covid-19 vaccine
As the Covid-19 pandemic has generated extreme fear amongst people around the world, it is anticipated that the demand for vaccine would cross billions. Seeing this as an opportunity of making quick bucks, several research organizations are already on the process of coming up with more brands of vaccines within next few months. According to health industry insiders, by March 2021, there will be at least a dozen of Covid-19 vaccines in the market.
Getting vaccine is a right
For every country in the world, getting the Covid-19 vaccine shots is a fundamental right and in this case, World Health Organization needs to play key role to ensure – none of the manufacturers of the Covid-19 vaccines indulge into wrong practice of extorting any country by asking high price for the vaccine.