Barbados to get 30,000 doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine

(Barbados Today) – Barbados is to receive a donation of 30,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Mia Mottley said Wednesday – on the day the World Health Organisation had earlier reported that Beijing’s two vaccine makers had presented data that appeared to meet WHO standards for efficacy.

Mottley told journalists at an Ilaro Court news conference that after having recent talks with President Xi Jinping on the subject of vaccine procurement, the Chinese leader agreed to donate a batch of vaccines and make available more batches for purchase.

She said: “We received a communication from the President of China, that they will donate 30,000 Sinopharm [BBIBP-CorV] vaccines to Barbados, and that obviously there are more available for us for purchase.”

Earlier Wednesday, the WHO’s lead expert on immunisation said in Geneva, that the agency’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) hopes to issue recommendations on the Sinopharm and Sinopharm vaccines by the end of April.

Mottley said: “We have indicated that as soon as SAGE, which is the committee of scientific experts… can approve of Sinopharm and we have that scientific evidence, that’s going to allow us then to have our own national committee approve it.”

Sinopharm, the Chinese state-owned vaccine maker, has not published detailed efficacy data of the jab but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), said the vaccine was 79.34% effective in preventing people from developing the disease based on interim data.

Though Barbados is still awaiting its shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine from COVAX facilities, as it has been delayed repeatedly over the last few weeks, separate commercial orders of the vaccine outside of COVAX are expected soon, including a batch from the African Union which would have been negotiated previously.

The delay has led to a near halt of the vaccination campaign, as the Government reserves about 30,000 doses from the initial 90,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by India. The remaining doses are to kickoff the delivery of the second dose of the jab.

Mottley said: “You would have seen earlier this week, the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP) signed a contract with Johnson and Johnson for the provision of 220 million doses. When I chaired CARICOM last year, I negotiated with AMSP, access for the Caribbean Community to go on that platform. In those days last year, it was not simply about vaccines, it was about PPE, it was about ventilators, it was about therapeutics, medicines, etc… and in those circumstances what happened is that they agreed to give the Caribbean community 1.8 million doses of what they are getting for Africa.

“Barbados [has] put in for that one; our share of that is just about 60,000 doses, but we have asked for the Johnson and Johnson one.”

The Government also had promising talks with Cuba, Sputnik from Russia and other players, as it seeks to pursue all reasonable paths in vaccine procurement.

But Mottley stressed that though Barbados is ready to pay its share for any scientifically proven vaccines it can receive, the current political and economic shifts the world over affecting vaccine production and procurement were tense, as several factors have contributed to slowing down the supply chain of the medicines.

She told journalists: “Part of the difficulty, and I think you in the media see it every day, the stories that are coming out across the world in particular in Europe and elsewhere, as to what is which vaccines, and vaccine wars, and vaccine misinformation, and vaccine nationalism, has made this perhaps one of the most difficult exercises that I have ever engaged in 30 years.” 

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