Vaccine trial falters as China seeks co-funding

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 16:58, Sep 30,2020 | Updated: 23:35, Sep 30,2020


Uncertainty grows over the phase-3 trial of COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac as the Chinese government has proposed Bangladesh for funding the trial. 

The trial is supposed to begin in September in partnership with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, but the latest development is delaying it, officials said.

‘China has proposed co-funding for the COVID-19 vaccine trial, which delays  the beginning of the trial,’ health secretary Abdul Mannan told New Age.

‘We are considering the proposal but cannot tell the possible date for reaching any decision,’ he said.

Officials said that the proposal for co-funding came last week, with the government taking it ‘negatively’.

‘The trial has now become uncertain,’ said an official involved in the trial process preferring anonymity.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University pharmacology professor Sayedur Rahman said that China should provide incentives to Bangladesh, alongside funding the whole trial. 

‘It [trial] involves huge risks on the volunteers, who should be protected, benefited and incentivised by Sinovac alongside the funding of the trial process,’ he said.

‘If they [China] disagree to do that, it amounts to deceiving us,’ said Sayedur, also a member of Bangladesh Medical Research Council’s ethical committee.

The pharmacologist alsosaid that the technical issues related to trial had been completed and then the financial issues emerged, which was not unlikely.

But, he said, the government should actively participate in the vaccine trials not only from the Chinese firm but also from other alternative candidates.

The Bangladesh Medical Research Council on July 19 approved the phase-3 trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac.

The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh partnered with Sinovac and seven hospitals in Bangladesh was selected for the trial on 4,200 volunteers.

Sinovac initiated the development of an inactivated vaccine against COVID-19 named CoronaVac in January and got the approval to conduct the phase-1 and phase-2 clinical trials in China that began in April.

The phase-3 clinical trial to test the efficacy and safety of the vaccine has already been approved by a number of countries, including Brazil, one of the worst coronavirus-hit countries.

Bangladesh confirmed its first COVID-19 cases on March 8. The country so far tallied 3.63 lakh cases with 5,251 deaths.

Experts suggested the government to allow the trial of COVID-19 vaccines as it would enable Bangladesh to access the vaccines early.

Health minister Zahid Maleque on Sunday said that the government allocated Tk 100 million funds for COVID-19 vaccines.

However, it is not clear if the government will co-fund the trial.

A number of firms proposed Bangladesh for the trial of their COVID-19 vaccines.

ICDDR,B senior scientist Khalequzzaman Zaman, also the chief researcher of COVID-19 trail activities, said that they would not comment on the matter but wait for the government decision.

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