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Coronavirus

Sinopharm, second COVID-19 vaccine not 100 pct effective against S. African variant

Published: Updated:

Two COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese companies including Sinopharm triggered immunity against a highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in South Africa, but their effect appeared weaker, a small-sample lab study released on Tuesday showed.

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Variants of the virus have stirred concern that they might weaken effects of vaccines and treatments developed prior to their emergence.

Twelve serum samples each taken from recipients of two vaccines developed by a subsidiary of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and a unit of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products retained neutralizing activity against the South African variant, their researchers said in a paper.

The paper was written by researchers from Sinopharm-affiliated Beijing Institute of Biological Products, the Institute of Microbiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is co-developing a candidate with Zhifei unit, and two other Chinese agencies.

A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a COVID-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese Sinopharm during its trial at the Clinical Studies Center of the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima on December 09, 2020. (AFP)
A health worker prepares a syringe to inoculate a volunteer with a COVID-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese Sinopharm during its trial at the Clinical Studies Center of the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima on December 09, 2020. (AFP)

However, the samples’ activity against the variant was weaker than against the original virus and another variant currently spreading globally, according to the paper published on website BioRxiv ahead its peer-review

The activity reduction “should be taken into account for its impact for the clinical efficacy of these vaccines,” they said.

The Sinopharm vaccine is approved in China for general public use and is also used in several other countries including the United Arab Emirates.

A man receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Reuters)
A man receives a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Reuters)

The Zhifei shot is in late-stage clinical trials in China and overseas.

Preliminary clinical trial data on vaccines from Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson also showed they were significantly less effective at preventing COVID-19 in trial participants in South Africa, where the potent new variant is widespread.

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