Bahrain Giving Pfizer Boosters to Sinopharm Vaccine Takers: Report
The daily COVID-19 deaths in Bahrain have risen to 12 per million people in recent weeks.
Amid a sharp spike in COVID cases despite high levels of vaccination in the country, the island nation of Bahrain has started giving Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to vulnerable residents who had taken the full vaccine of the state-owned Chinese drug maker Sinopharm.
Bahrain has fully vaccinated 47 percent of its people, more than the 41 percent vaccination rate in the US or the 38 percent in the UK. In India, however, only about 4.7 percent of the country’s 950 million adult population have been given both doses, Al Jazeera reported.
So far, Sinopharm accounts for 60 percent of Bahrain’s vaccination. Waleed Khalifa al Manea, Bahrain’s undersecretary of health, said over 90 percent of people hospitalised in the current wave had not been vaccinated, The Wall Street Journal reported.
However, Dr al Manea added that since residents above the age of 50, are obese or have chronic illnesses, they are now being urged to get another shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, six months after the full Sinopharm vaccination.
The reason Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is being recommended for more vulnerable groups is:
- Sinopharm vaccine’s main clinical trial involved 40,382 participants, mostly in the United Arab Emirates. However, the trial participants were healthy young men with a mean age of 36 years and only two cases of severe disease, thereby not being able to confirm whether the vaccine works in an older age group.
- Moreover, in an unpublished and real-world study of Sinopharm in Serbia, 29 percent of 150 participants were found to have zero antibodies three months after they received the first jab of the two-shots vaccine. The average age of the participants in the Serbian study was higher than 65 years, The Wall Street Journal reported.
An outbreak nearly five times more lethal than India’s, the daily COVID-19 deaths in Bahrain have risen to 12 per million people in recent weeks.
Seychelles, an Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands became the world’s most vaccinated nation with 65 percent of the population fully vaccinated, due to donations of the Sinopharm vaccine from the UAE and of an AstraZeneca PLC shot by India.
However, Seychelles too, saw cases and deaths surge to records in May. Though, the WHO pointed out that most of the cases were either unvaccinated or had only received their first dose, the Seychelles health ministry said it is considering administering a third booster shot to vulnerable residents.
In its initial report on Phase 3 trials of Sinopharm, the UAE government said in December that the vaccine offered 86 percent protection against symptomatic disease and 100 percent protection against moderate and serious disease.
However, according to dozens of recipients in Dubai, the emirate’s health authorities have also begun revaccinating with Pfizer-BioNTech those residents who had been fully inoculated with Sinopharm, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Sinopharm was able to sign contracts to sell 175 million doses to countries that range from Egypt to Hungary to Argentina, based on the strength of the UAE clinical trials in the Middle East.
Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are among several national leaders to have publicly taken the Sinopharm shot. Several nations are building vaccine plants to manufacture Sinopharm locally.
Meanwhile, Bahrain continues to offer the Sinopharm vaccine to those who prefer it, Dr al Manea said.
However, while the government’s BeAware app allows users to book a Sinopharm booster shot, it recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for more vulnerable population groups.
(With inputs from Al Jazeera and The Wall Street Journal)
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