An anticipated clinical trial of a Chinese-made experimental Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh has stalled over funding, according to local media reports.
The phase 3 test of Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine is now uncertain after the company asked Dhaka to co-finance the trials, a stipulation outside the original agreement, according to reports citing a Bangladeshi health ministry official.
“They [Sinovac] informed us that they would be able to start the trial soon if we co-fund the initiative. We will make a decision after talking to the prime minister,” health secretary Abdul Mannan told Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star last week.
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“We are not dependent on Sinovac. The government is looking for other avenues to get the vaccine right after it is developed,” he said.
Sinovac did not specify the amount of funding it was asking for in the letter, which was sent last month, according to the newspaper.
The company could not immediately be reached for comment during China’s national holiday. Information about the CoronaVac trial in Bangladesh does not appear on the company website.
The trial of the vaccine candidate has been several months in the making and was originally approved by Bangladesh’s state medical research agency in July. It received the go-ahead from the government in August, with the health ministry expressing hopes that participation would give the South Asian country priority access to the vaccine, if approved.
Sayedur Rahman, an academic member of Bangladesh’s National Research Ethics Committee, an advisory group that reviews clinical trials, said he was aware of the letter and the request for funding was unusual.
“If someone is going to run trials then definitely the innovator, or the sponsor, is supposed to provide funds, there’s no question of co-funding unless there is a special agreement – that if we co-fund this research, we will give this vaccine at a special rate or with special priority. Only then does the issue of co-funding arise,” said Rahman, a professor of pharmacology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mijib Medical University.
While the government has not reached a decision about whether to continue with the trial, Rahman said it may be difficult for Bangladesh to allocate funding to develop an unproven vaccine given its limited resources.
“We are not like the US or the UK in that we can invest in vaccine research with an idea that it might become successful … Bangladesh may not be in a position to invest money for this purpose,” he said.
Vaccine supply is likely to be limited for some time after any vaccine receives regulatory approval, and participation in clinical trials has been viewed by some countries as a way to secure early access to any approved products. Bangladesh has also confirmed that it will collaborate with India on vaccine development and will receive early access.
The planned trial of the Sinovac candidate in Bangladesh would include 4,200 volunteers and be run by the Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh. Under the agreement, Bangladesh would receive 100,000 free doses of the vaccine if it received regulatory approval, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said in August.
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.
Sinovac is not alone in working with overseas partners to test its experimental Covid-19 vaccine. All three Chinese companies with vaccines candidates in phase 3 trials have engaged a number of overseas partners, as there are not enough active infections in China to test efficacy there.
Beijing has also repeatedly said that vaccines it produces will be a “global public good” and shared with the world. Priority access has already been offered to some countries, including those in Africa and the Mekong region.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday said China and Bangladesh had been partners in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. His comments were made during a call with his Bangladeshi counterpart Abdul Hamid marking 45 years of diplomatic ties between the countries.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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This article Coronavirus: Sinovac vaccine trial said to be stalled in Bangladesh over funding first appeared on South China Morning Post