India meddling behind halt of Sinovac vaccine trials in Bangladesh: source
By Leng Shumei
Published: Jan 26, 2021 09:43 PM
A recent report in the Hindustan Times claimed that Bangladesh had to turn to India for help as Chinese vaccine producer Sinovac asked the Bangladeshi government to share cost of clinical trials. However, the report is different from what the Global Times has learned, and experts condemned Indian media for hyping what would be normal international cooperation on vaccine development.
A Sunday report of the Hindustan Times claimed that Sinovac in October 2020 wanted to sign a contract with the Bangladeshi government to supply the latter with the CoronaVac vaccines developed by Sinovac.
The report said Sinovac asked the Bangladeshi government to share the cost of the clinical trials on CoronaVac scheduled in Bangladesh and said that the same condition has been put in other countries where clinical trials had been carried out. Bangladesh refused such a condition and turned to India for free vaccines, the report claimed.
However, based on previous reports and some sources, the Global Times learned that the Bangladeshi government had agreed that Sinovac conduct clinical trials on CoronaVac in Bangladesh as early as July and planned to implement the trials since August.
At that time, Bangladesh did not need to share the cost. But the clinical trials were delayed until October due to the Indian government allegedly meddling in the two sides’ cooperation during the period, according to some sources reached by the Global Times.
As of October, Sinovac had kicked off clinical trials in some other countries, such as Brazil and Turkey, and could not find external financial support for the clinical trials in Bangladesh, so the company had to negotiate with the Bangladeshi government about sharing the cost to launch the clinical trials. The company had promised to provide free vaccines to Bangladesh for compensation but was refused, according to what the Global Times has learned.
In international cooperative clinical trials, it is normal for partners to share the cost based on negotiations. Usually, vaccine producers will offer to donate vaccines, or transfer some technology or help the partners build production lines as compensation, Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
It is normal for international partners to reach cooperation after reaching agreements, as well as normal for them to cancel cooperation if an agreement is not reached. No one should use this as an excuse to smear any of the partners, Chinese experts said.
India has been smearing China’s cooperation with countries in South Asia in cooperation on the anti-epidemic fight as the region is traditionally under India’s influence, Tian Guangqiang, assistant research fellow with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
“India always treats China as a simulated enemy that can affect its influence in South Asia and reduce South Asian countries’ reliance on India,” Tian explained.
From an economic perspective, India probably also wants to monopolize the vaccine market in South Asia, so it would like to see Chinese vaccines step out of the regional market, Tian said.
More than 50 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in over 50 countries and regions as of January 20, according to data composed by Nikkei and the Financial Times.
On Friday, China’s Ministry of Commerce said more than 40 countries have requested vaccines from China.
Pakistan: China to gift half a million doses of Sinopharm vaccine
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Thursday that China has agreed to provide half a million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine free of cost by January 31.
“They have said send your aircraft and airlift this vaccine immediately. So this is a happy bit of news for us, and we will hopefully be successful in protecting ourselves using this vaccine,” Qureshi said at a press conference in Islamabad.
“I thanked them and also told them we need more than this, and in the future, we will need 1.1 million doses, and they reassured us and said by the end of February we plan to meet this requirement for you as well,” Qureshi added.
Pakistani regulators approved China’s Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use on Monday, two days after AstraZeneca’s vaccine developed with Oxford University was approved.
Qureshi said he also raised the possibility of jointly manufacturing vaccines with China.
Pakistan is also nearing the completion of a phase three trial of another Chinese vaccine from Cansino Biologics Inc. Some 17,500 people have enrolled in the trial so far, and initial results would be available at the beginning of February, Health Minister Faisal Sultan said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Sultan said if the Cansino vaccine proved effective, Pakistan could look to procure 20 million doses. He said Pakistani officials have also been meeting with UK officials to discuss procuring vaccines from there.
Cambodia: We have many vaccine options
Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen on Friday said 300,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine will arrive in Cambodia in February and that he expects around 500,000 people to be inoculated before Khmer New Year, which will be held in April.
“China is pushing to send 600,000 doses of the vaccine to Cambodia, and I want to see 500,000 Cambodians vaccinated before Khmer New Year,” he said.
Meanwhile, he has asked the Ministry of Health to start a survey to determine how many people are willing to take the vaccine.
“Many countries are already using vaccines, including those of the People’s Republic of China, Sinopharm and Sinovac, which are our necessities and we cannot wait any longer,” Hun Sen said in a voice message on Facebook.
Hun Sen said he sent a letter to China last week about the donation of one million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Cambodia and had a discussion with the Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian to find a way to bring more vaccines to Cambodia.
Egypt to start nationwide vaccination on Sunday
Egypt will begin coronavirus vaccinations on Sunday, beginning with medical staff, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in recorded comments on Saturday.
Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed authorized the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine in early January and received the first batch, comprising 50,000 doses, in December.
“We are starting a vaccination drive tomorrow, beginning with healthcare workers followed by those suffering from chronic diseases and later the elderly,” Sisi said after unveiling several development projects in Port Said.
Egypt will get 40 million vials via the GAVI vaccine alliance for 20 million people, 20 percent of the 100 million population, its health minister said last week.