(Vaccines.News) A Chinese doctor has dubbed the Wuhan coronavirus vaccine candidate from a state-owned drugmaker as the “most unsafe in the world.” Dr. Tao Lina posted in the Chinese social media platform Weibo Jan. 5 that the jab made by Sinopharm caused 73 side effects. The vaccine expert from Shanghai, who has 4.8 million social media followers, later retracted his statement and apologized for his “imprudent” choice of words.
Tao criticized the vaccine candidate in a blog post titled “Sinopharm’s inactivated COVID-19 vaccine feared to be the most unsafe vaccine in the world.” In the post, he pointed out that the jab had “as many as 73 side effects.” These included pain around the injection area, headache, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence, and taste and vision loss.
The vaccine expert also commented that none of the vaccines in the world “has more side effects” than Sinopharm’s two-dose COVID-19 jab. He described the vaccine’s potential adverse effect as “unprecedented,” with the numerous side effects “catapulting it to be the most unsafe vaccine.”
A number of international news outlets reported Tao’s claims, which led to the doctor retracting his previous statement. He claimed Jan. 7 that his controversial blog, which has disappeared, was an “extremely sarcastic” piece pointing out the errors in the Sinopharm vaccine manual. Suspecting that the side effects were mistakenly listed, he wrote the blog to call the drugmaker’s attention toward the flawed handbook.
Furthermore, Tao refuted accusations that he blasted Sinopharm’s Wuhan coronavirus vaccine candidate. He also denounced international news outlets for “twisting” and “exploiting” his words. The vaccine expert said in a Weibo post: “Hereby, I extend my apologies to numerous web users and citizens across the nation, and express my despisal [of] the evil actions of overseas media.”
Tao also assured his social media followers that the Sinopharm vaccine was “very safe,” saying he had already received the first dose. He added that he would receive the second dose Jan. 9.
China’s mass vaccination program is progressing despite Tao’s controversial post
The news of Tao’s controversial blog entry and subsequent retraction of it came amid China’s mass vaccination program against COVID-19. Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG) said Jan. 7 that it had administered more than four million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Jan. 4. Two vaccine candidates by Sinopharm are included in the country’s emergency vaccination program launched in July for specific high-risk sectors.
Chinese health authorities granted conditional approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine Dec. 31. According to a WeChat post by CNBG, “no serious adverse reaction was reported in large-scale emergency use of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccines.” The state-run pharmaceutical firm’s vaccine candidate reported a 79.34 percent efficacy rate. (Related: China’s coronavirus vaccine production may be unable to fulfill commitments to other countries.)
Outside of China, a number of Middle Eastern nations have approved Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine for their immunization campaigns. Egypt approved the emergency use of the jab Jan. 2, the country’s health minister Hala Zayed said. The Egyptian Drug Authority tested the first batch of the vaccines that arrived in December to ensure they are safe to use.
Zayed continued that the next batch of Sinopharm vaccine doses will arrive in the coming days, with vaccination campaigns to commence “within the second and third week of January.”
The United Arab Emirates also announced its approval of Sinopharm’s vaccine candidate Dec. 9. In a press release, Emirati authorities said the approval was based on promising efficacy rates from clinical trials. Final-stage trials on the vaccine – including a 31,000-participant trial in the country – found that the vaccine reported an 86 percent efficacy rate.
China is aiming to inoculate millions of people before the Lunar New Year in mid-February. It particularly targets front-line workers and the working-age population, including those who plan to travel abroad for academic or employment purposes. As such, it has assigned nine “key groups” to be prioritized in the vaccination campaign. International and domestic transport workers, logistics and public utility staff and public sector employees among the groups China prioritized in its vaccination queue.
According to Johns Hopkins University data, China currently has a 96,432 COVID-19 caseload with 90,464 recoveries and 4,788 deaths.