The country’s medicine regulator, the Medicine Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) authorised the emergency use of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine ahead of the vaccination roll-out campaign
Use of Sinopharm vaccines generated a lot of public interest, with people asking why the government was rolling out this vaccine before local clinical trials were done.
Zimbabwe received a donation of 200 000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and has started vaccinating frontline workers.
Chief Coordinator for the National Response to Covid-19 Pandemic in the Office of The president and Cabinet , Dr Agnes Mahomva, said MCAZ granted authority to the Ministry of Health and Child Care to import and use the Sinopharm vaccine.
Dr Mahomva said in a public health emergency, regulatory bodies recognised that due to the dire situation caused by Covid-19, an emergency authorisation was granted.
“Globally, scientists have recognised that in an emergency such as the Covid-19 pandemic we are in now, it may not be possible to have all the data regulatory bodies would normally need before approving a drug or vaccine for use. Country regulatory bodies worldwide such as our own MCAZ can therefore authorise registration of new medicines for emergency use,” she said.
This authorisation, according to Dr Mahomva is given when there is evidence that “strongly suggest that patients can benefit from the use of the new medicine or new vaccine.”
“In other words, an emergency use authorisation is a mechanism to facilitate the availability of medicines including use of vaccines during public health emergencies, once again such as the one we are in now,” she said.
Dr Mahomva said Covid -19 vaccines that are currently in development and under the World Health Organisation evaluation processes can mainly be distinguished based on technologies they used or how they worked.
“On one hand, there are vaccines such as Pfizer that work through new technologies such as the use of genetic material, the famous messenger Ribonucleic acid (RNA) to produce immunity and enhance protection in an individual. On the other hand there are vaccines such as the Sinopharm which use traditional vaccine technologies.
“Specifically, they use whole inactivated virus what we can also call – killed virus- to produce immunity in an individual. This traditional vaccine technology is very familiar, it is a tried tested technology that most traditional vaccines we know and are using or used in the past actually used,” she said.
The health expert said Sinopharm had five characteristics of interest.
“First, Sinopharm is basically an inactivated or killed vaccine, with no risk of causing the actual disease. (Secondly) The inactivated virus causes the body to develop and immunity or produce anti-bodies that protect the individual from contracting the actual or active Covid-19 disease,” Dr Mahomva said.
“(Thirdly) Sinopharm vaccine efficiency is reported to be 79 percent up to 86 percent in the United Arab Emirates where it has been used quite a bit. Fourth, the vaccination schedule for the Sinopharm vaccine is two doses, one has the initial dose then waits 21 to 28 days for the second dose. Finally, the vaccine should be administered by qualified trained health care workers only. Prior to vaccination, all the known potential side effects are to be clearly explained to the individual.”
She added that a number of potential side effects of Sinopharm are very similar to what has been observed with other traditional vaccines used before.
“As we roll out the vaccination, we are excited but let us remember vaccines are not the magic bullet. They are not 100 percent and don’t provide a 100 percent protection for this disease. We still need to continue washing hands with soap and running water, sanitise always wear a face mask and do it properly,” Dr Mahomva said.
Other African countries using Sinopharm include Egypt, Morocco and Seychelles.
Morocco and Seychelles also use AstraZeneca vaccines as well.
Other countries such as Algeria use Sputnik V, Mauritius – AstraZeneca, Rwanda Moderna while South Africa uses Johnson and Johnson.
Zimbabwe’s vaccine programme is in three phases. Phase One is targeting frontline and healthcare works, who are of the highest risk when it comes to exposure.
The second phase will cover priority groups such as those with chronic illnesses and comorbidities such as Diabetes, High Blood Pressure including those who are 65 and above.
Phase Three will cover the rest of the population.