Sputnik V isn’t the only vaccine that the government allows to be sold privately. A one-dose shot made by CanSino Biologics of China is priced at around $28. Demand has been weaker because of greater public confidence in the Russian vaccine. Still, supplies sold out quickly after the CanSino doses went on sale last month. The government has said another 13.2 million doses will arrive in June.

AGP Limited, a private pharmaceutical company that has imported 50,000 doses of Sputnik, is urging patience.

“Sputnik V received an overwhelming response in Pakistan with thousands of people being vaccinated in just a few days and an even higher number of registrations confirmed in hospitals across Pakistan,” said Umair Mukhtar, a senior official of AGP Limited. He said the company has placed large orders for more.

The government price dispute could delay further expansion. The drug regulatory authority wants Sputnik V to be sold at a lower price. AGP won an interim court order on April 1 to sell the vaccine until a final price is fixed.

For those who can afford the doses, frustration is growing. Junaid Jahangir, an Islamabad-based lawyer, said several of his friends got private inoculations. He registered with a private lab for Sputnik V but got a text message later saying that the vaccination drive was on hold.

“I am being denied a fair chance to fight this virus if I end up getting infected,” Mr. Jahangir said. “The demand is there, and I don’t see what could possibly be the reason behind the inefficiency in supply.”

Some of the people who paid for private doses justified their decision by citing media reports that some well-connected people were jumping the line to get free, public doses. In May, at least 18 low-level health care workers were suspended by the authorities in Lahore for vaccinating people out of turn after taking bribes.

Iffat Omar, an actor and talk show host, apologized publicly in April for jumping ahead of the line to get the vaccine. “I am sorry,” she said on Twitter. “I am ashamed. I apologise from the bottom of my heart. I will repent.”

Fiza Batool Gilani, an entrepreneur and the daughter of Yusuf Raza Gilani, the former prime minister, said she knows of several young people who jumped the queue and got the free government vaccine in recent weeks.

“I was myself offered out of turn, free vaccine, but I declined as I wanted to avail the private vaccine,” said Ms. Gilani. Wealthy people should pay for their doses, she said, adding that her family would pay for CanSino shots for its household staff.

Many people, like Tehmina Sadaf, don’t have that option.

Ms. Sadaf, 35, lives along with her husband and a seven-year old son in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad. Her husband is a cleric at a mosque. She gives Quran lessons to young children. She said the pandemic had negatively impacted the family’s income of around $128 per month. “After paying the house rent and electricity bill, we are not left with much,” she said.

She had her doubts about the public vaccine, “but the price of the private vaccine is very high,” she said. “It should have been lower so that poor people like us can also afford it.”

Zia ur-Rehman contributed reporting from Karachi, Pakistan. Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

View Source

Countries Are Scrambling for Vaccines. Mongolia Has Plenty.

Mongolia, a country of grassy hills, vast deserts and endless skies, has a population not much bigger than Chicago’s. The small democratic nation is used to living in the shadow of its powerful neighbors, Russia and China.

But during a pandemic, being a small nation sandwiched between two vaccine makers with global ambitions can have advantages.

At a time when most countries are scrambling for coronavirus vaccines, Mongolia now has enough to fully vaccinate its entire adult population, in large part thanks to deals with both China and Russia. Officials are so confident about the nation’s vaccine riches that they are promising citizens a “Covid-free summer.”

Mongolia’s success in procuring the vaccines in the span of a few months is a big victory for a low-income, developing nation. Many poor countries have been waiting in line for shots, hoping for the best. But Mongolia, using its status as a small geopolitical player between Russia and China, was able to snap up doses at a clip similar to that of much wealthier countries.

deep skepticism over their homegrown vaccines.

Mongolia is a buffer between eastern Russia, which is resource rich and mostly unpopulated, and China, which is crowded and hungry for resources. While Russia and China are often aligned on the global stage, they have a history of conflict and are wary of each others’ interests in Mongolia. Those suspicions can be seen in their vaccine diplomacy.

arrived this week. Mongolia’s most recent agreement with China’s Sinopharm Group, which is state-owned, was made days before the company received emergency authorization from the World Health Organization.

Mongolia was late to the global clamber for Covid-19 vaccines. For nearly a year officials boasted that there were no local cases. Then came an outbreak in November. Two months later, political crisis precipitated by the mishandling of the virus led to the sudden resignation of the prime minister. The prospect of continued coronavirus restrictions threatened to throw the country into further political turmoil.

The new prime minister, Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai, pledged to restart the economy, which had suffered from lockdowns and border closures, particularly in the south, where Mongolian truck drivers ferry coal across the border to China’s steel mills. But these plans were complicated by surging cases, with the daily count going from hundreds a day to thousands.

“We were quite desperate,” said Bolormaa Enkhbat, an economic and development policy adviser to Mr. Luvsannamsrai.

Vero Cell vaccine. Soon after, China donated 300,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine to Mongolia, citing a “profound traditional friendship” as motivation.

Opening up more of the border between China and Mongolia was also a part of the vaccine discussions, Chinese and Mongolian officials said in Chinese state media. Mongolia needs China to buy its coal — exports to the country make up nearly a quarter of Mongolia’s annual economic growth. The revenues helped to pad Mongolia’s budget by a quarter last year.

After a month of back and forth, the Mongolian government struck a deal in March with Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, too, for one million doses of the Sputnik vaccine. Days later, Mongolia finalized an agreement to buy 330,000 additional doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, 97 percent of the adult population has received a first dose and more than half are fully vaccinated, according to government statistics. Across the country, more than three quarters of Mongolians have already received one shot.

China has shut its border and stopped purchasing Mongolian coal.

Mongolians have also expressed a preference for Russia’s Sputnik vaccine. To get the population to take the Sinopharm shot, the government has offered each citizen 50,000 tugriks — about $18 — to get fully vaccinated. The average monthly salary in 2020 was $460.

The terms and pricing of the Sinopharm and Sputnik deals were not made public, and Mongolia’s foreign ministry declined to comment on pricing. Representatives for the Gamaleya Research Institute and Sinopharm did not respond to requests for comment.

While some global health experts have questioned whether Sinopharm will be able to continue to deliver on its commitments overseas, it has delivered all of the doses Mongolia ordered. China has said it can make as many as five billion doses by the end of the year, though officials have warned that the country is struggling to make enough shots for its citizens.

a third booster shot sooner than expected.

China, for its part, may be playing a long game, said Julian Dierkes, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in Mongolian politics. Though many Mongolians may still not trust China, the Mongolian government will remember how it made its vaccines available at a critical moment.

“We could coin a phrase here: ‘The opportunity of smallness,’” he said.

View Source

Seychelles Sees Rise in Coronavirus Cases Despite Vaccinations

Marie Neige, a call center operator in Seychelles, was eager to be vaccinated. Like the majority of the residents in the tiny island nation, she was offered China’s Sinopharm vaccine in March, and was looking forward to the idea of being fully protected in a few weeks.

On Sunday, she tested positive for the coronavirus.

“I was shocked,” said Ms. Neige, 30, who is isolating at home. She said she has lost her sense of smell and taste and has a slightly sore throat. “The vaccine was supposed to protect us — not from the virus, but the symptoms,” she said. “I was taking precaution after precaution.”

China expected its Sinopharm vaccines to be the linchpin of the country’s vaccine diplomacy program — an easily transported dose that would protect not just Chinese citizens but also much of the developing world. In a bid to win good will, China has donated 13.3 million Sinopharm doses to other countries, according to Bridge Beijing, a consultancy that tracks China’s impact on global health.

Instead, the company, which has made two varieties of coronavirus vaccines, is facing mounting questions about the inoculations. First, there was the lack of transparency with its late-stage trial data. Now, Seychelles, the world’s most vaccinated nation, has had a surge in cases despite much of its population being inoculated with Sinopharm.

has managed to beat back the virus. A study has shown that the Pfizer vaccine that Israel used is 94 percent effective at preventing transmission. On Wednesday, the number of daily new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million people in Seychelles stood at 2,613.38, compared to 5.55 in Israel, according to The World In Data project.

Wavel Ramkalawan, the president of Seychelles, defended the country’s vaccination program, saying that the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines have “served our population very well.” He pointed out that the Sinopharm vaccine was given to people age 18 to 60, and in this age group over all, 80 percent of the patients who needed to be hospitalized were not vaccinated.

according to the Seychelles News Agency. Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment.

an article from The Wall Street Journal on Seychelles, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry blamed Western media for trying to discredit Chinese vaccines and “harboring the mentality that ‘everything involving China has to be smeared.’”

In a news conference, Kate O’Brien, director of immunizations at the World Health Organization, said the agency is evaluating the surge of infections in Seychelles and called the situation “complicated.” Last week, the global health group approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, raising hopes of an end to a global supply crunch.

She said that “some of the cases that are being reported are occurring either soon after a single dose or soon after a second dose or between the first and second doses.”

According to Ms. O’Brien, the W.H.O. is looking into the strains that are currently circulating in the country, when the cases occurred relative to when somebody received doses and the severity of each case. “Only by doing that kind of evaluation can we make an assessment of whether or not these are vaccine failures,” she said.

But some scientists say it is increasingly clear that the Sinopharm vaccine does not offer a clear path toward herd immunity, particularly when considering the multiple variants appearing around the world.

Governments using the Sinopharm vaccine “have to assume a significant failure rate and have to plan accordingly,” said John Moore, a vaccine expert at Cornell University. “You have to alert the public that you will still have a decent chance of getting infected.”

Many in Seychelles say the government has not been forthcoming.

“My question is: Why did they push everyone to take it?” said Diana Lucas, a 27-year-old waitress who tested positive on May 10. She said she received her second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on Feb. 10.

Emmanuelle Hoareau, 22, a government lawyer, tested positive on May 6 after getting the second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in March. “It doesn’t make sense,” she said. She said the government had failed to give the public enough information about the vaccines.

“They are not explaining to the people about the real situation,” she said. “It’s a big deal — a lot of people are getting infected.”

Ms. Hoareau’s mother, Jacqueline Pillay, is a nurse in a private clinic in Victoria, the capital. She said she believes there is a new variant in Seychelles because of an influx of foreigners who have arrived in recent months. The tourism-dependent country opened its borders on March 25 to most travelers without any quarantine.

“People are very scared now,” said Ms. Pillay, 58. “When you give people the right information, then people would not speculate.”

Health officials have recently appeared on television to encourage those who have only taken the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine to return for the second shot. But Ms. Pillay said she is frustrated that the public health commissioner has not addressed why the vaccines don’t appear to be working as well as they should.

“I think a lot of people aren’t coming back,” said Ms. Pillay.

Marietta Labrosse, Elsie Chen and Claire Fu contributed research.

View Source

Cleric Lifts Iraq’s Faltering Vaccination Effort, but Perilous Summer Awaits

BAGHDAD — In a country where most people believe that God will protect them but their government won’t, it has taken a popular Shiite cleric to give Iraq’s stumbling vaccination program a boost.

Iraq has been bracing for a dangerous summer, with widespread skepticism over coronavirus precautions, a limited vaccine supply and a troubled health care system.

But last week, Moktada al-Sadr, whose lineage from a revered Shiite family commands respect among millions of Iraqis, was shown on video rolling down his robe and baring his arm for a Chinese Sinopharm vaccine in the holy city of Najaf.

Vaccination clinics throughout Najaf Province had until then recorded only around 300 vaccinations a day. Two days after the video was released, that number climbed to almost 2,000 a day until clinics ran out of vaccines on Wednesday. They expect to receive more in two weeks.

Covax, the global vaccine-sharing partnership, has allocated 1.7 million doses for the country of 40 million people.

Covax, Chinese donations of Sinopharm, and purchases of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine funded through a $100 million World Bank loan.

The vaccination program was meant to start with the elderly, health care workers, those with chronic conditions and security forces. Yet a significant number of Iraq’s roughly 200,000 health care workers are refusing vaccines, according to officials.

a fire swept through a Baghdad hospital for Covid patients after an oxygen canister exploded, killing more than 100 people, most of them patients and their relatives. The hospital lacked smoke detectors or sprinkler systems.

The health minister was forced to resign and other officials were arrested. Iraqi ministries are divvied up among powerful political parties with the health ministry under the control of the Sadr political bloc.

Mr. Sadr, who has tried to portray himself as above politics while still playing a key role in Iraq’s political system, has said any officials convicted of wrongdoing should be punished.

The health ministry has struggled to get its message across.

“Some people still do not believe in the existence of the virus and they do not believe in the effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Dr. Ruba Falah Hassan, in the ministry’s media office.

At many vaccination clinics outside the Sadr strongholds, there has been so little demand that any Iraqi with ID or foreigner with a passport can be vaccinated after a few minutes wait.

Near central Baghdad’s Palestine Street, about 30 people waited for a Sinopharm vaccine on plastic chairs in the Al Edreesi health care center on Thursday. In this middle-class neighborhood most of those waiting appeared to be professionals or university students.

“We ask anyone who took the vaccine to send a message of reassurance in their groups. ” said Afraa al-Mullah, from the health center’s media department. “Anyone who took the vaccine must speak and say, ‘Here I am. I’m fine, get vaccinated.’”

The more that word spreads that vaccines are not harmful, she hopes, the more Iraqis would agree to be vaccinated.

“Iraq’s population is 40 million, 20 million must get vaccinated,” she said, calling the 400,000 who have been inoculated “a drop in the ocean.” She added: “We have people that do not believe in coronavirus. How can we convince them to vaccinate?”

Falih Hassan and Nermeen al-Mufti contributed reporting.

View Source

China’s Sinopharm Vaccine Approved for Emergency Use By W.H.O.

Developing countries racing for coronavirus vaccines now have another dependable option — and China’s reputation as a rising scientific superpower just got a big boost.

The World Health Organization on Friday declared a vaccine made by a Chinese company, Sinopharm, as a safe and reliable way to fight the virus. The declaration marks a significant step toward clearing up doubts about the vaccine, after little late-phase clinical trial data was disclosed by the Chinese government and the company.

The W.H.O. emergency use approval allows the Sinopharm vaccine to be included in Covax, a global initiative to provide free vaccines to poor countries. The possible inclusion in Covax raises hopes that more people — especially those in developing nations — will get access to shots at a crucial moment.

Rich countries are hoarding doses of vaccines. India, a major vaccine maker, has stopped exports to address its worsening coronavirus crisis. Safety concerns led health authorities in some countries to temporarily pause the use of vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, in part because the government prioritized exports and residents did not feel rushed to get vaccinated. The country is now speeding up its national vaccination campaign and aims to inoculate 40 percent of its 1.4 billion people by the end of June.

published the data this week.

78.1 percent, according to the W.H.O. advisory group. The Sinovac vaccine has varying efficacy rates of between 50 percent to 84 percent, depending on the country where Phase 3 trials were conducted. Both vaccines were made using a tried-and-tested technology that involves weakening or killing a virus with chemicals.

The advisory group’s data showed that it had a “high level of confidence” that the Sinopharm vaccine worked in preventing Covid-19 in adults, but a “low level” of confidence for people over 60. The group’s findings were similar for the Sinovac vaccine.

The W.H.O. said that because Sinopharm enrolled few adults above 60 years old in its trials, the health agency could not estimate the vaccine efficacy for this group. But the W.H.O. said it would not restrict the use of the vaccine in that age group because preliminary data suggests “the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.”

There is limited data on how well the vaccine will work against the many coronavirus variants cropping up around the world. Chinese vaccines are overall less effective than the inoculations produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

But for China’s leaders, the W.H.O. approval can still be seen as a badge of honor. Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has pledged to make a Covid-19 vaccine a “global public good.”

After India announced export restrictions on vaccines last month, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would turn to China for help. Last week, China’s foreign minister offered to help South Asian nations get access to vaccines.

Indonesia said it would get additional doses from Sinovac after President Joko Widodo held talks with Mr. Xi. In a speech the same week, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said he owed “a debt of gratitude” to China for its vaccines.

It remains to be seen whether the W.H.O. approval will change Beijing’s approach to doling out vaccines. China has given only 10 million doses to Covax, though it has independently donated 16.5 million doses and sold 691 million doses to 84 countries, according to Bridge Consulting. Many of the donations were made to developing nations in Africa and Asia.

“They don’t like to subsume their generosity in their products under some U.N. brand,” said J. Stephen Morrison, director of the global health policy center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They are in a historic phase,” he said. “They want the recipients to know that this is China delivering.”

Jason Gutierrez contributed reporting. Elsie Chen contributed reporting and research.

View Source

China Official Acknowledges Low Effectiveness of the Country’s Covid Vaccines

A senior Chinese official said that the country’s vaccines may need to be administered in greater doses or in concert with other shots because of their low overall effectiveness.

The comments on Saturday by Gao Fu, the director of China’s disease control center, suggest that China and more than 60 countries that have approved Chinese vaccines could need to adjust their distribution programs. The widespread distribution of Chinese vaccines means that any changes could potentially affect hundreds of millions of people or more.

Possible steps to boost effectiveness of Chinese vaccines include changing the amount of vaccine given, the number of shots, the time between shots or the type of vaccines given, Mr. Gao said.

He also praised the possibilities offered by messenger RNA. That technology is used in the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines but not in any of the vaccines thus far approved in China.

said in January that the efficacy rate for the CoronaVac vaccine from the Beijing-based company Sinovac was just over 50 percent. By comparison, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were found to be 90 percent effective in real world conditions, researchers said last month.

Last month the distributor in the United Arab Emirates of vaccines from China’s Sinopharm said it was offering a third dose in addition to the standard two-dose regimen for a “very small number” of people who were “not really responsive” to the vaccine.

View Source

Argentina Delays 2nd Vaccine Doses, Fearing Variant Surge

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina is delaying the administration of the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines for three months in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible get at least one dose amid a sluggish vaccination drive.

The move “seeks to vaccinate the largest number of people possible with the first dose to maximize the benefits of vaccination and diminish the impact of hospitalizations and mortality,” the government said in announcing the decision on Friday.

The country has been applying Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since its vaccination campaign began in December, Argentina, a country of 45 million people, says it has administered a total of 3.55 million doses of vaccine, including 658,426 who have received the two doses called for in the protocols for all three vaccines.

delaying second doses, including Britain, which pursued a plan to separate doses by up to three months. And federal health authorities in the United States have indicated flexibility on expanding the gap between first and second doses to six weeks. But the vaccines in those cases are the same in both doses.

Sputnik, however, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute, part of Russia’s Ministry of Health, uses a different adenovirus in each of its two doses to deliver bits of the coronavirus’s genetic code. Russia has said it will soon release a one-shot version of its vaccine — essentially using the first dose as the only dose, which it is calling “Sputnik Light.” It is not clear what benefit there would be to delaying a second dose of Sputnik, since there is no recommendation that the second version be administered as a single dose.

Argentina’s decision to delay second doses comes amid increasing concerns of the possibility of a new wave of Covid-19 cases and deaths, fueled by the new variants of the virus that have engulfed several of Argentina’s neighbors, particularly Brazil, but also Chile and Paraguay.

Argentina is canceling all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting Saturday in an effort to block the new variants. It had already blocked flights from Britain and Ireland.

International travelers already face new restrictions in Argentina, including a mandatory Covid-19 test on arrival and enforced quarantine in a hotel if it comes back positive.

View Source

China Says China-Made Vaccines Will Help Get You Into China

BEIJING — China raised the stakes in the international vaccine competition on Saturday, saying that foreigners wishing to enter the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong will face fewer paperwork requirements if they are inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines.

The policy announcement, which covers foreigners applying for visas in the Chinese territory, comes a day after the United States, India, Japan and Australia announced plans to provide vaccines more widely to other countries. The four so-called Quad powers promised to help finance the production in India of at least a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year.

China is trying to increase the international appeal of its shots, even as scientists and foreign governments urge Chinese vaccine makers to be more transparent with their clinical trial data. Guo Weimin, a Chinese government spokesman, said that China had sent vaccines to 69 countries by the end of February and begun commercial exports to 28 countries.

Chinese state media organizations have also begun a misinformation campaign that questions the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots and promotes Chinese vaccines as better alternatives.

introduced an international electronic passport for its citizens that shows whether a traveler has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. But it was not immediately clear how much of a difference Saturday’s policy announcement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry would make for foreigners living in Hong Kong, given that China has been issuing almost no visas lately.

In addition, Hong Kong’s borders have been closed to nonresidents for nearly a year. So the new policy will not help many foreigners in other countries who want to return to mainland China for work or family reasons.

The Hong Kong government allows residents to choose between the Sinovac vaccine from mainland China and a version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that it imported from Germany. The announcement on Saturday did not specify whether people in Hong Kong who have already received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot would need to be vaccinated again with the Sinovac product.

Alan Beebe, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that border restrictions had become the biggest concern for multinationals doing business in the country, and he questioned the need for restricting entry based on which vaccine was chosen by travelers.

“It’s not clear to us,” he said, “what is the difference between having an imported vaccine and one that is produced in China.”

Liu Yicontributed research.

View Source