Sinopharm’s vaccines for COVID-19 are still considered “experimental” but have been administered to more than one million people.
Rabat – The Ministry of Health announced on Friday that the vaccine Morocco will use in the upcoming national COVID-19 vaccination campaign is from Sinopharm, a state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company.
Here is everything you should know about the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
What is Sinopharm?
China National Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, is one of the country’s pharmaceutical companies producing COVID-19 vaccines.
There are about a dozen Chinese vaccines in development, of which four — including Sinopharm’s — are at an advanced point in the final stage of clinical trials.
Sinopharm is producing two of the vaccines through its subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The group was one of China’s first to begin widespread human trials in more than 10 countries.
How effective is Sinopharm’s vaccine?
While government and health officials in Morocco have promised that the country’s chosen vaccine is safe and efficient, the Chinese government has not released information about the exact efficiency rate of the Sinopharm vaccine, unlike Moderna, Pfizer, and Sputnik V.
In fact, the vaccine is still considered “experimental.”
On a more reassuring note, more than one million healthcare workers and high-risk people in China and other countries participating in clinical trials have already received the vaccine under emergency use authorization. Provincial governments across China are now ordering the vaccine en masse.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a statement from Sinopharm Chairman Liu Jingzhen as saying in November that only a few of the people who received the vaccine experienced mild symptoms and not a single person had a serious adverse reaction.
“Among construction personnel, diplomats, and overseas students who have traveled to more than 150 countries in the world, there has not been a single case of infection after inoculation,” the company said.
Even before the vaccine was approved for human trials, Sinopharm tested the vaccine on the company’s executives, demonstrating confidence in its own vaccine and hoping to “lead by example.”
Other than China, where has the vaccine been administered already?
Because China was able to contain its COVID-19 outbreak, few infection cases remain within its borders. Like other Chinese firms, Sinopharm chose to conduct vaccine trials overseas, including in several Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.
The UAE was the site of Sinopharm’s first human trials, starting in mid-July and continuing through October. The vaccine in the UAE trials used an inactivated virus, the same technology used against diseases such as influenza and measles, and includes two doses over 14-28 days.
The UAE authorized the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use on September 14 and began inoculating frontline medical workers and senior officials. In November, UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum received the vaccine.
Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42) hopes to domestically manufacture between 75 and 100 million doses of the Chinese vaccine in 2021, according to Reuters.
Sinopharm in Morocco
Beijing has promised to grant developing countries priority access to its vaccines, Quartz reported. Morocco secured its access to the Sinopharm vaccine on August 20 with the signing of two cooperation agreements.
The agreements committed Morocco to participate in Phase III clinical trials of the Sinopharm vaccines. With the agreements, Morocco aimed to guarantee “self-sufficiency” in domestic COVID-19 vaccine production.
In November, Minister of Health Khalid Ait Taleb reported “very positive” results of clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine on Moroccan volunteers. He said the results confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine that Morocco will use in the vaccination campaign.
Morocco’s vaccination campaign
Morocco announced on November 9 plans to carry out a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign, but did not initially specify when it will begin or what vaccine it will deploy.
Although the question of when the campaign will begin remains unanswered, the country’s top health official has again confirmed that health professionals, local authorities, security officers, teachers, and vulnerable segments of the population will be the first beneficiaries of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine.
Health authorities are currently distributing doses of the vaccine to regional health directorates, who will soon begin local distribution.
Ait Taleb called on Moroccans to continue respecting preventive measures against COVID-19 and be open to the idea of vaccination.
“We need at least 60% of the population to get vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity,” he said.
Morocco will carry out an awareness campaign to dispel myths and fears Moroccans may have about the Sinopharm vaccine.