China’s Sinovac Defends COVID-19 Vaccine After Disappointing Brazil Data By Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR / SINGAPORE (Reuters) – China’s Sinovac Biotech defended the safety and efficacy of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, after researchers in Brazil released late-stage clinical data showing much lower efficacy than initially announced. The vaccine was only 50.4% effective in preventing symptomatic infections in the Brazilian trial, including data on “very mild” cases, researchers said Tuesday. Last week, they said the vaccine, called CoronaVac, was 78% effective against “mild to severe” cases. The news prompted Malaysia and Singapore, which have purchasing agreements with Sinovac, to say on Wednesday that they would seek more data from the Chinese firm on efficiency rates before approving and purchasing supplies. “These phase III clinical trial results are sufficient to demonstrate that the safety and efficacy of the CoronaVac vaccine are good worldwide,” Sinovac Biotech President Yin Weidong said at a press conference. Different countries used vaccines from the same batch in their trials, but the countries do not have identical testing protocols, he said. Partial disclosures from the Sinovac trials, as well as those from studies of other Chinese vaccines, have raised concerns that they are not subject to the same public scrutiny as American and European alternatives. The data from Brazil was released just as Indonesia was launching its vaccination campaign, and President Joko Widodo was the first to be inoculated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac. Malaysia said on Wednesday it would only go ahead with the procurement if the vaccine meets the safety and efficacy standards of local regulators. On Tuesday, Malaysia’s Pharmaniaga Bhd signed an agreement with Sinovac to purchase 14 million doses of CoronaVac and then manufacture it in the country. Singapore, the only high-income nation that Sinovac has come to terms with, said it would review the official data when Sinovac publishes it, rather than relying on reported efficacy thus far, and then deciding whether to approve it. Thailand, which ordered 2 million doses of CoronaVac, said it was still on track to receive and administer the vaccine as of next month, but added that it would request information directly from Sinovac.

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