TrialSite recently showcased what appears to be mounting safety issues with Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine. Half-owned by the Chinese government, it’s one of a few controversial vaccines from China. Now doctors in the Southeastern Asian nation of Indonesia are dying after being vaccinated with CoronaVac, another COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac. With the Delta variant rapidly circulating in populations, this part of the world faces an unprecedented third wave of infections and deaths associated with the novel coronavirus. With 20,000 cases reported for the nation alone on Thursday and 21,342 cases on Sunday, June 27, oxygen supplies at hospitals in the largest city Jakarta run low in a theme similar to what was experienced recently in India. While many of this nation’s physicians were vaccinated with Sinovac, unfortunately at least 401 doctors have died, reports the Indonesian Medical Association’s risk mitigation team. Out of the dead, at least 20 were inoculated with Sinovac. According to a recent Wall Street Journal entry, Joe Emont writes that at least 10 of the 26 doctors who received both doses of CoronaVac died.
Then recently 358 medical workers based in Kudus, Indonesia, fully vaccinated again with Sinovac, fell ill to SARS-COV-2 infection, testing positive for the coronavirus. Indonesia, considered a low-and-middle-income country (LMIC), has vaccinated only 5% of its population—the fourth largest at about 275 million worldwide. The data starts to indicate that Sinovac isn’t as effective as some of the Western vaccines, such as Moderna, Pfizer-BioNtech, Johnson and Johnson, and new investigational aspirants such as Novavax and CureVac.
Better than Nothing
Yet the country just recommended the vaccine for children 12 and above given the concerns associated with the present surge. As reported in Nikkei Asia, the current crisis severity outweighs this specific vaccine’s product concern, but that could change quickly.
Other Places with Questionable Results
TrialSite recently raised concerns with vaccines from China, including Sinopharm’s product. For example, Seychelles is one of the most vaccinated places on the planet against COVID-19 yet data in Our World Data indicate horrible outbreaks and hence a correlation between inoculation and SARS-CoV-2 infection and death.
A Problematic Culture or Just Standard Corp. Affairs?
TrialSite has long expressed concern about Sinovac. We shared last summer that a $15 million convertible debt deal with Chinese and American investors raised some red flags with TrialSite’s analysts. This financing was minuscule compared to what the competitors were raising. Moreover, a review of company events found a problematic series of actions to possibly hurt investors and protect management, such as the enactment of a rare “poison pill” in response to investor conflicts. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time managerial action led to disgruntled investors, implicating one drama after another, from boardroom intrigue to unnamed officials raising their factories!
At that time last summer, the company, incorporated in Antigua yet governed in Delaware, used investors 1Global Capital (engaged in litigation with the company at the time), Chiang Jia Li, and OrbiMed Advisors to trigger the poison pill, as combined they owned over 15 percent of the company stock. Transparency has been a continual theme not only with the CoronaVac clinical trials data specifically but also at the shareholder level. The company, which has been heavily promoted by the Chinese government and thus part of what’s been called by the press around the world as “vaccine diplomacy.” That is, nations such as China and Russia have used vaccine products as an opportunity to emerge from the COVID-19 world crisis as a more influential superpower. For example, Xi Jinping, China’s supreme leader, committed to a Chinese vaccine, economically viable in all ways—from storage to distribution—and thus could be used by hundreds of millions if not billions around the world.
Awareness, Transparency, Accessibility & Engagement
The present-day crisis in Southeast Asia drives the prioritization of inoculation with SinoVac. But TrialSite suggests that opaqueness won’t help in this COVID-19 world and beyond for too long, with the business and health communities becoming ever more connected globally. TrialSite cannot overstate the importance of three elements in advancing biomedical research, including 1) awareness, 2) transparency and accessibility, and 3) engagement. In the case of Sinovac, it should open up its data with the scientific community, although perhaps raising possible discomfort in the short run, greater trust in the long run benefits patients, the company, and investors.