Bangladesh will not co-fund Chaina vaccine Sinovac’s vaccine trial
Easterntimes, Special Correspondent, Dhaka,14 October : The clinical trial in Bangladesh of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech is now uncertain after the health ministry baulked at the idea of co-financing the initiative as requested by the Chinese drugmaker.
On Sept 22, Sinovac wrote to the health minister saying they were planning to begin the phase 3 test of vaccine candidate, CoronaVac, in August. But the firm spent the funds in another country as the Bangladesh government had delayed giving the go-ahead to the trials.
Sinovac said it was not sure about getting the final approval from Bangladesh. They appealed to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation or CEPI for funds to run the trial in Bangladesh but never received it.
So, they need the Bangladesh government to invest money to run the safety trial, the Beijing-based drug maker added.
Sinovac should run the trial with their own money because that’s what they said they would do when they had sought approval, Bangladesh Health Minister Zahid Maleque Our Correspondent.
“(And) that’s why they were given permission,” he said.
“They also said they will provide us 100,000 doses of the vaccine free of charge. We approved the trial after they wrote to us following discussions on all of these issues.”
His ministry checked, first via the icddr,b and then directly, with Sinovac when the planned trial of the vaccine candidate did not begin following the regulatory approval, Maleque said.
“…They said they had a fund crunch and asked for funding from us.”
“A country’s job is done when it approves the clinical test of a vaccine. They never asked for co-funding when they sought approval for the trial. This is not a contract we have with the Chinese government. This is a private company and we cannot have a co-funding (arrangement) with a private company.”
The health ministry is yet to share its position in writing.
It entirely depends on Sinovac, said Maleque when reporters recently asked him if the clinical trial of the vaccine in the country has stalled. “We don’t understand why they are acting like they are. They’re a big organisation and should not run short on funds.”
Sinovac Chief Executive Yin Weidong said last month that countries running its final-stage clinical trials – which include Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey – will get its coronavirus shots at the same time as China.
But the health minister insisted Bangladesh will get the Sinovac vaccine anyway, even if the trial does not go ahead as planned.
“We can buy the vaccine if it is approved. Sinovac will work with the WHO and it will provide different countries with the vaccine. We’ll also get it,” Maleque added.
Bangladesh will also get early access to the vaccine it will collaborate with India on developing.
Fund-related complications have thrown the clinical trial of the vaccine candidate into uncertainty, Dr Md Nazrul Islam, member of the national technical advisory committee on coronavirus, told Our Correspondent. The government was late with the approval and this created the complications, he said.
“An early trial could have been beneficial for us. Bangladesh had the opportunity. We heard that Bangladesh will get more than 100,000 doses of vaccine for free and some companies in Bangladesh will be allowed to produce vaccines.
“But none of these will be possible without a clinical trial happening here,” said Dr Islam, a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh was supposed to run the safety trial and Sinovac started working with it from April.
On Jul 18, Bangladesh Medical Research Council or BMRC approved the clinical trial of the vaccine while the health ministry gave the green light on Aug 27.
The vaccine is supposed to be used in Dhaka Medical College Hospital’s Unit 1 and 2, Mugda General Hospital, Dhaka Mohanagar General Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital, Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital and Holy Family Hospital. The final-stage trial was slated to run for 18 months on the health workers in the country.
After a clinical trial on 743 people in the first and second phases, the Chinese company claimed they found that the unproven vaccine worked as it created immunity against the novel coronavirus in those people.