How effective is Sinopharm vaccine?

Sinopharm vaccine from Beijing Institute of Biological Products was 79% effective in clinical trials, able to fight Delta variant infection.

The Sinopharm vaccine was urgently approved by the World Health Organization on May 7, called BBIBP-CorV. The vaccine is developed by Sinopharm and manufactured by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, licensed for use in 64 countries and territories. To date, this vaccine is in use in 59 countries with about 800 million doses used, according to the Ministry of Health. In Vietnam, this vaccine was approved for emergency purposes against the epidemic on June 3.

SinoPharm uses inactivated virus, a traditional technology, used with polio vaccine. Basically, this method is relatively primitive, similar to the method of preparation that Edward Jenner, the English scientist, the father of immunology, made in the 18th century.

He used attenuated cowpox virus to create a vaccine against the disease. Technology proven to work over hundreds of years of medical history, with less risk than an untested approach.

Michael Kinch, a vaccine expert at Washington University in St. Louis, commented: “We need to learn the history, not to forget about what has worked in the past. There is no need for ‘big bangs’ when the simple method still produces the same results.”


Late last year, Sinopharm released preliminary data showing the vaccine was 79% effective. This result is different from the announcement of the United Arab Emirates on December 9. The country has approved the Sinopharm vaccine and reports it is 86% effective.

In the latest clinical trial in Sri Lanka, published on July 20, researchers from Sri Jayewardenepura University, said that the Sinopharm vaccine was highly effective against the Delta variant.

“The antibody response from the vaccine to Delta is similar to the antibody level of someone who has had Covid-19,” the university wrote on its official website.

On average, 95% of volunteers who received two doses of Sinopharm vaccine had an immune response similar to that of a naturally infected person. In which, 81.25% produced neutralizing antibodies, specific to pathogens. The results were also relatively consistent across age groups. 98% of people between 20 and 40 years old develop antibodies after vaccination. The results in the 60-year-old group were 93%.

Professor Neelika Malavige, head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at Sri Jayewardenepura University, said Sinopharm is the most used vaccine in Sri Lanka due to the available stockpiles in the country. To date, 4.63 million people have received at least one dose of the BBIBP-CorV vaccine. The country has not recorded any cases of serious side effects.

An employee checks the packaging of Sinopharm vaccines in Beijing, China, May 31. Photo: Xinhua

Professor Malavige said the team of experts looked at all aspects of the immune system after the Sinopharm vaccination. The vaccine is also effective against the Alpha and Beta variants.

“The report concludes that when encountering Delta and other variants, Sinopharm vaccine produces antibody levels similar to those of natural disease. This is very promising,” said Prof. Malavige.

Many studies have shown that vaccines using inactivated viruses appear to be more effective at preventing hospitalization than in reality. In Chile, a large study found that China’s Sinovac was 66% effective in preventing symptomatic infections, but was able to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 85% and 80%, respectively. Studies of Sinopharm in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sinovac in Indonesia found that these two vaccines can prevent hospitalization by up to 90%.

Sinopharm vaccines in the world

The vaccine has been deployed in 59 countries and territories, and is also provided in the COVAX mechanism, supporting low- and middle-income countries to access vaccines to control the pandemic.

Leaders of about 30 countries have publicly injected BBIBP-CorV. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, 51, received his first dose of the vaccine in April. “I have been vaccinated, feeling great,” he wrote on his personal page.

Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority on August 1 allowed private hospitals to import Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine to promote vaccination against the epidemic.

Murat Akova, a clinical infectious disease researcher at Hacettepe University, Turkey, emphasized that the Chinese vaccine is the necessary complement to address the global vaccine shortage.

Employees deliver a batch of Sinopharm vaccines to Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia, on August 1.  Photo: Xinhua

Employees deliver a batch of Sinopharm vaccines to Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia, on August 1. Photo: Xinhua

The advantage of inactivated vaccines is the production and distribution time. In addition, it is easier to store and transport. Vaccine storage temperature does not reach the “super cold” level as required by Pfizer and Moderna. This is a huge advantage for low- and medium-income countries, which need to disseminate vaccines quickly and on a large scale to ensure economic development.

“If there are no better options, a Chinese vaccine is still a positive direction,” Akova said.


However, the Sinopharm vaccine encountered some controversy. In Bahrain, vaccines have had mixed results, failing to prevent a new outbreak. Nearly 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, but the country witnessed the most serious wave of infections in June. The government had to blockade the whole country for 14 days to handle the situation.

Deputy Health Minister Waleed Khalifa al-Manea said that people over 50 years old, with chronic diseases or obesity, who have received Sinopharm vaccine, are encouraged to receive additional Pfizer vaccine after 6 months. Mr. Manea reassured the public that BBIBP-CorV, which accounts for more than 60% of people vaccinated in the country, still creates a reliable immune net. He noted that more than 90% of cases requiring hospitalization were unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Like Bahrain, some countries decided to inject additional Pfizer vaccine after two doses of Sinopharm. This raises concerns about the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine.

However, not only Sinopharm, many pharmaceutical companies also suggest injecting a third dose of vaccine to prolong the immunity of users. Data showed that three doses of Pfizer resulted in a 5-fold increase in anti-Delta antibodies in people aged 18-55 years. The UK has also just decided to give a third dose of the vaccine to about 32 million people.

Oxford University announced on June 29 that a combination injection of two vaccines of AstraZeneca and Pfizer will create a stronger immune response. New data reinforces some European countries’ decisions to mix vaccines. This is an alternative option after a series of controversies related to coagulation and thrombocytopenia in people receiving AstraZeneca vaccine.

Thuc Linh (Follow Global Times, Xinhua, Strais Times, NY Times, Reuters)


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