Ecuadorians join Chinese vaccine trial; Some say Chinese and Russian vaccines may be first to arrive

Dec 29, 2020

Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos announced Monday that 5,000 to 8,000 Ecuadorian volunteers will participate in a trial for a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine. The phase 3 trial will be conducted in January.

Vaccines are coming — but which ones and when?

“About 50,000 Chinese have already participated in the trials and the results have been extremely promising,” Zevallos said. “The researchers are eager to conduct further tests outside of China and Ecuador is one the countries chosen for this.”

Zevallos said that Ecuador’s National Agency for Health Regulation and the Substances Control and Surveillance office will review Chinese research data before the trial begins.

According to a consultant with the World Health Organization, many of the world’s poorer countries, including Ecuador, could end up inoculating most of their population with Chinese or Russian vaccines.

“Despite all the news about the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford vaccines, many countries with limited financial resources may have to rely on vaccines from Russia and China,” says epidemiologist Raymond Ellis. “The richer countries of Europe and North America have made large investments and prepayments for the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford products and will be first in line as these are shipped. There are also production problems developing with the larger brands and the companies are warning that their shipment dates will need to be pushed back. This means smaller, poorer countries will be pushed back even further in terms of shipments.”

According to Ellis, some countries in Latin America and Africa are anticipating the delays and actively negotiating for the Russian and Chinese vaccines. “Argentina and Paraguay just signed agreements for Sputnik shipments and two cities in Brazil are in talks with the Chinese producers.”

From early indications, Ellis believes the Russian and Chinese vaccines may be more widely available to most of the world than what he calls the “headline products.”

Ellis says WHO is reviewing data from the Russian (Sputnik) trials and is, so far, impressed with the results. “The Russian and Chinese vaccines must go through the same review process we are conducting on all vaccines,” he says. “We won’t recommend a vaccine unless we feel it is safe and effective.”

He adds that the timing of distribution of the vaccine to poorer countries is a major concern. “From what I am seeing, it could take three or four years before everyone in the world who wants a vaccine can get one. This poses a serious problem in terms of any kind of return to normalcy for the world as a whole, for both the rich countries and poor.”

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