By Carlena Knight
Antigua and Barbuda added another Covid-19 vaccine to its stores as the country accepted 20,000 doses of Sinopharm yesterday.
Minister of Health Sir Molwyn Joseph, who was present at the VC Bird International Airport to receive the donations from the Chinese government, with the assistance of the Venezuelan government, said that the vaccines will be put to use immediately.
“As soon as it gets into our inventory, the public will be advised that if they wish to get the Sinopharm they can access it now and it will be available,” he shared.
Joseph thanked the Chinese government for the gift and also shared his gratitude to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which assisted in transporting the vaccines from Beijing to Antigua and Barbuda.
The Health Minister said that the solidarity between the three nations is nothing new as both have assisted greatly in the fight against Covid-19.
His sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Gaston Browne who added that “during a time of need, they are always there to help”.
This solidarity, Joseph noted, if used by other international countries, would have helped significantly in the global fight against the coronavirus.
“Solidarity is demonstrated in an ample way today, and if the world had this solidarity that we are seeing today, many lives would have been saved. There are people dying in the world, people getting sick solely because vaccines are not available.
“Hoarding of vaccines is a crime. Why hold vaccines when generosity and solidarity could make them available to people who badly need them? So, in this context, I want to publicly state my appreciation for two governments who understand the meaning of solidarity,” he said.
Joseph mentioned that the donation of the vaccines could not have come at a better time as the last doses of those acquired through the COVAX facility are set to expire at the end of the month.
He continued to encourage persons to get vaccinated as “the solution now lies in the hands of the people” for some sort of normalcy to return.
This latest donation now means that the twin island nation has three different types of Covid vaccines on island, namely Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and now Sinopharm.
Unlike the Sputnik V, Sinopharm has been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), thereby becoming the first Chinese manufactured vaccine to be approved, in early May.
Since then, it has been approved for use in over 42 countries, to include Dominica, which has been administering the vaccine since March.
The Chinese vaccine requires two doses but unlike AstraZeneca that has a 12-week waiting period for the second dose, Sinopharm stipulates a three to four-week interval between doses.
It incorporates inactivated virus to stimulate an immune response. The Sinopharm vaccine contains SARS-CoV-2 that has undergone treatment with a chemical called beta-propiolactone. This chemical binds to the virus’s genetic material and stops it from replicating and causing Covid-19. The vaccine also contains an adjuvant in the form of aluminum hydroxide. Adjuvants help to strengthen the body’s immune response to vaccines.
When an individual receives the vaccine, the body’s immune system identifies the inactivated virus as foreign and makes antibodies to fight it. If the vaccinated person subsequently comes into contact with SARS-CoV-2, the immune system launches an immune response against it.
This two-dose vaccine is recommended for individuals who are over 18 years old, and it has an efficacy rate of about 78 percent.
The most common side effects reported by people who received the Sinopharm vaccine were injection site pain and soreness, while other reported side effects included headache and fatigue.
The vaccine is produced by the Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products (BBIBP).