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India makes it to the list of vaccine superpowers; China staggers to find a place

  • Adrija Ray Chaudhury | Team PresentMirror | Updated: March 21, 2021, 12:02 p.m.

Recently, Dr Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Boston has hailed India as the rescuer of the world. He has applauded the incredible patience and vigour with which not only has India rolled out vaccines for its own people but also has managed to send out millions of doses to other countries. On the other hand, the Peruvian scandal makes us question the future of mankind.


India, being one of the world’s biggest drug-manufacturers, has been rightfully called the pharmacy of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, given that increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring coronavirus vaccines. Dr Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston, during a recent webinar said that the two mRNA vaccines may not impact the world's low and middle income countries, but India’s vaccines, made in collaboration with universities across the world such as BCM and the Oxford University, have “rescued the world” and its contributions must not be underestimated.

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Image Credits: Times of India

Dr Hotez' take on Indian vaccines

During a recent webinar, “COVID-19: Vaccination and Potential Return to Normalcy - If and When”, organised by Indo American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston (IACCGH), Dr Hotez, an internationally-recognised and preeminent physician-scientist in the field of tropical diseases and vaccine development, said that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is "India's gift'' to the world in combating the virus.

“ This is something very special and I see it myself because I'm on weekly teleconferences with our colleagues in India, you make a recommendation, and within days it's done and not only done, but it's done well and with incredible rigor and thought and creativity, " Dr. Hotez said, stressing that he felt compelled to make this statement because " India's huge efforts in combating global pandemic is a story that's not really getting out in the world. "

Dr Hotez, considered as the authority on vaccinations, is working on an affordable coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with Indian pharmaceutical companies.

Meanwhile, India has already vaccinated nearly 30 million people which includes frontline and health workers whereas people above the age of 60 and/or with serious chronic illnesses are now getting vaccinated.

All about Chinese vaccines

China appears to have come up with vaccines from two front-runners - Sinovac and Sinopharm - already making their way abroad.

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Image Credits: CNN

The Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac is behind the CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine. Despite some obvious advantages over Pfizer and Moderna like cheaper logistics and easier ways of storage, Sinovac has not much to offer and it comes with no information about phase 3 trials. One Chinese study published in scientific journal The Lancet , only has information from the first and second phase trials of CoronaVac in China.

Zhu Fengcai, one of the paper's authors, said those results - based on 144 participants in the phase one trial and 600 in the phase two trial - meant the vaccine was "suitable for emergency use". Yet, it has been channeled down to both national and international markets, which is indeed concerning. CoronaVac has been undergoing phase three trials in various countries. Interim data from late-stage trials in Turkey and Indonesia showed that the vaccine was 91.25% and 65.3% effective respectively.

Researchers in Brazil initially said it was 78% effective in their clinical trials, but in January 2021 revised that figure to 50.4% after including more data in their calculations.

What about the Sinopharm vaccine?

Sinopharm is also based on inactivated vaccines and comes without any records of phase 3 trials. What's even more surprising-the vaccine had already been distributed to nearly a million people in China under an emergency programme ahead of phase 3 trials.

Professor Dale Fisher, of the National University of Singapore, has condemned this action and said that it was "unconventional" to ramp up a vaccine programme without first going through last stage trials: the last stage trials being the most important part of the match. Moreso, the recent Peruvian corruption that stirred public outrage seems to have far-reaching connections with Sinopharm. Authorities are doubtful if some of the queue-jumpers — those directly implicated in the negotiation process with Sinopharm might have requested or accepted something in return for those vaccines. Any indication of such pecuniary advantage by means of deception will qualify their actions as bribery and they may face three to eight years of jail. Civil servants who have unduly favoured one company over others and company officials acting as counterparts in these negotiations may be charged with collusion.The scandal also raises concerns about Sinopharm’s practices because it’s the company that provided those extra shots to politicians, their family members, lobbyists and even the Pope’s representative in Peru.

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Image Credit: Clinical Trials Asia

A doctor in China also claimed that the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is the 'most unsafe in the world'. Dr Tao Lina, who is a vaccine expert from Shanghai, wrote that the Sinopharm vaccine had 73 side-effects on his social media account but soon after deleted the post and retracted claims. The side-effects listed by him were: "pain around the injection area, headache, high blood pressure, the loss of vision and taste, and urinary incontinence".

India has always been very orthodox and principled in cultivation for the benefit of humanity and has never been a part of any political slugfest. Probably, this is the reason why India's ventures-be it in Science and Technology or Healthcare are all the more structured and oriented. We are hopeful that this scrupulous adherence to custom, backed by contagious enthusiasm may eventually put us on a greater world platform.

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