Zimbabwe registering second Chinese vaccine Sinovac, assessing more vax options

Zimbabwe is in the process of registering Sinovac, a second Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, and is monitoring vaccines from elsewhere for possible consideration, government says.

The vaccine is now in its last stage towards being registered for emergency use by the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ), the country’s medicines regulator, Deputy Health Minister John Mangwiro told Parliament on Tuesday.

“Sinovac produces larger quantities. We are in the process of registering Sinovac right now. They have given us (data on) Phase I and Phase II. We are waiting for documents for Phase III. They will be registered shortly,” Mangwiro said.

On Monday, Zimbabwe received a donation of 200,000 vaccine doses of the Sinopharm vaccine. Zimbabwe targets to buy up to 1.8 million doses of the vaccine. This choice of vaccine drew some criticism from the opposition benches in Parliament.

“We are concerned that there is evidence that the country has brought in whether by donation or purchase, a vaccine from China. That vaccine that we have been given which is the China Covax (sic) drug which is different from the one brought into this country; the drug that has been brought into this country has not been approved by WHO but is still undergoing tests and more importantly, it has not had a peer review,” opposition MP Tendai Biti said.

“This drug has been used in other countries and the highest efficacy rate it has had is 75% whereas all the other drugs that are now in wide use – Astrazaneca, Modena, Pfizer, the Russian Sputnik or Gamalia drug all have an efficacy of 95%.”

Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga said Zimbabwe continued to monitor all available vaccines, and would make “science-based” decisions on which ones were best for Zimbabwe.

“As you may be aware Hon. Members, we are watching the print and electronic media and they are now about 15 vaccines. When we get a vaccine which we think is or can be used in this country, it is registered under this section,” Chiwenga said.

Zimbabwe has signed up to COVAX, the global facility for vaccines, and also put in an application for its allocation under the African Union facility, Chiwenga said.

“On all the things which can help Zimbabwe, we have done. What we are now waiting for is to see the delivery,” Chiwenga said.

Zimbabwe is eligible for 1.15 million doses under COVAX, and three million doses under AU, for which Zimbabwe will pay at least US$20.5 million under a credit facility backed by Afreximbank.

What do we know about Sinovac?

Sinovac is made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. So far, it has sold over 300 million doses, mostly to low- and middle-income countries, according to company statements and media reports.

Since July, the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in high-risk groups China and general use in December. So far, both Sinopharm and Sinovac have given some 40 million shots in China.

Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, and Laos have granted emergency authorisation for Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine, the company says.

In Brazil, the vaccine was found to be 50.65% effective against COVID-19 disease in a trial among 12,396 medical workers older than 18. A study in Turkey, among less vulnerable groups, gave a success rate of 91.25%. There was a 65.3% efficacy rate in the Indonesia trial.

The Brazil trial also found the vaccine was 83.7% effective against the disease that requires medical treatment, and 100% effective against hospitalization, severe cases and death in the same trial, according to Sinovac data.