Covid-19 : An update on Chinese vaccine clinical trials in Morocco and in partner countries

Administered to more than 100,000 people in China, vaccines developed by public entity Sinopharm against Covid-19 are in their final stages of testing. Morocco, which is participating to the process, will launch an expanded vaccination campaign in the coming weeks.

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In the coming weeks, Morocco will launch a Covid-19 vaccination campaign, following the instructions of King Mohammed VI. The process is expected to start as soon as clinical trials and results of the laboratories that developed the vaccine confirm its efficacy.

Vaccine trials in Morocco are following royal instructions, Dr Abdelhakim Yahyane, a member of the National Scientific Advisory Committee on Vaccination, told Yabiladi on Tuesday. «Morocco has entered phase three of its vaccine research, with 600 eligible people participating to the trial, including foreigners living in the country», he added.

Vaccine trials in Morocco could end in a week

Dr Yahyane stressed that these trials «have not been completed yet», but that «they have reached the final phase». They are also monitored by «a scientific and technical committee, made up of independent researchers, national and international authorities recognized on a larger scale by their scientific publications and appointed by the Ministry of Health».

Abdelhakim Yahyane told Yabiladi that on Thursday, November 5, the second presentation of these tests allowed the committee to analyze the progress of this process, which is «positive» and whose results will be announced soon. «We have already noted that there have been no major adverse effects and those which have been observed are very minimal, quite normal, as is the case for all other vaccines», he declared.

The third phase of the trials allows us to better understand the side effects of the vaccine, which would not have been identified during the first two stages of the tests. In September, the Chinese government and Sinopharm did not report any adverse effects. So far, none of the people who have been vaccinated have contracted Covid-19.

«We are impatiently awaiting the end of this process, which could probably happen by next week, to then receive the results from the Chinese laboratory. The protocol indeed requires that the latter to finalize the analyses and define a protocol, with scientific methods, before they are approved by Morocco», added Dr. Abdelhakim Yahyane.

People at risk

In August, Morocco signed two partnership agreements with Chinese laboratory Sinopharm CNBG (China National Biotec Group Company Limited), becoming one of the first countries to be able to receive doses of vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The Minister of Health, Khalid Ait Taleb, announced that the Kingdom «will be able, probably very soon, to produce a vaccine as part of the exchange of expertise between Rabat and Beijing».

In the meantime, Sinopharm has pledged to provide 10 million doses during the month of December, which will initially vaccinate 5 million citizens. Like many conventional vaccines, «Coronavac» is made up of two doses spaced 21 days apart.

The Chinese authorities have also authorized the urgent use of three experimental vaccines, which are at phase three of trials, including two developed by the China National Biotec Group Co., a subsidiary of Sinopharm, in addition to one by biopharmaceutical company Sinovac. Since then, 90% of employees and their families have been vaccinated, in addition to medical staff, customs staff, diplomats and industrial and service personnel.

This is also the case in the United Arab Emirates, where health authorities have approved the urgent use of the vaccine in the third phase of testing, for health professionals and particularly those who treat people with the new coronavirus. 

Trials to be completed even as the vaccine is already in use

Currently, China is developing «four of the eleven vaccines that have reached the third and final phase of clinical trials», recalled Swiss Radio and Television (RTS). Quoting Chinese officials, it also confirms that «no serious adverse effects have been observed».

In addition to Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, vaccine trials are also taking place in Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt and Brazil. The authorities in Brazil have also expressed their intention to include the Chinese vaccine in their national vaccination program. Governor of São Paulo João Doria announced the acquisition of 46 million doses of Coronavac, approved by the government. According to him, an expanded vaccination campaign could start in January 2021.

However, the Health Vigilance Agency (ANVISA) later announced the suspension of the trials, citing a «serious incident» among volunteers. The Chinese partners said that they were «convinced of the safety» of their vaccine and that the facts would not be linked to the vaccine. The suspension concerns the vaccine developed by Sinovac, not the vaccine developed by Sinopharm, which was tested in Morocco.

The Butantan Institute, a public body which coordinates the tests in Brazil, said it was «surprised» by the decision of the Health Vigilance Agency, the day of the announcement by the American laboratory Pfizer of the development of a vaccine that would be 90% reliable. The agency has promised to hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss this decision.

For its part, a recent study published by the medical journal The Lancet showed that the Chinese vaccine, which uses a technique formerly known to deactivate the virus in the human body, has been shown to be safe for use and has proven the creation of an immune response.

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