FACT CHECK: Misleading claims on Sinopharm Vaccine having 73 side effects!

COVID-19 Misleading

As the deadly Covid19 pandemic has continue to create havoc in many parts of the world with multiple variants, health authorities has stressed the importance of vaccination drive while following health guidelines to be the best known way to combat the disease so far. A number of vaccines have been listed in its Emergency User Listings (EUL) by WHO. This includes Chinese vaccine Sinopharm as well. 

Meanwhile, various misinformation about the effects of vaccines have been spreading via Social media. This article is about such invalidated claims about the Sinopharm vaccine which is the vaccine being primarily used in Sri Lanka.

Viral Social Media Posts:

A Facebook user named, “Dinesh Madusanka”, published a photo which claiming to be a newspaper article, explaining the side effects or risks of getting the Sinopharm vaccine. The English translation of the post claims that Sinopharm is the most unsafe vaccine of the world with 73 side effects including the loss of sight.

Facebook| Archived

The content went viral among the Facebook users as seen below.

Facebook| Archived

Fact Check:

First, we used the Reverse Image Search to locate the source of the viral image and source of the above claim. We were able to find the article published in TaiwanNews website and the person in the image was identified as Dr. Tao Lina

Taiwan News published the below news article on 6th of January, 2021, citing a post on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China,  by Dr. Tao, claiming to be a vaccine expert who said that Sinopharm is the most unsafe vaccine in the world with 73 side effects, as seen in the below article.

TaiwanNews |Archived

However, Dr. Tao’s post was later removed and few days after the first article, same Taiwan News published another article about Sinopharm vaccine and its adverse reactions. 

According to the newspaper report, Tao said that he added that post to the Weibo on a sarcastic note over vaccine instruction manual and not on a serious note. And he had even pledged to take two doses of Sinopharm himself and make an example, as seen below.

TaiwanNews| Archived  Global Times TheTimes

According to instruction guidelines of Sinopharm vaccine, the side effects of the Sinopharm vaccine are categorized into several categories, very common, common, occasional, rare and very rare. These categories comes under two main areas; local reactions and systematic adverse reactions. 

The instruction guidelines of Sinopharm vaccines published by epidemiology unit of the health ministry of Sri Lanka and can be seen here.

Web| Archived

Sinopharm vaccine is among one of the 11 vaccines, approved by World Health Organization (WHO) for the emergency use to combat against the COVID-19, on the 07th of May

We contacted to the WHO’s local office to get clarifications regarding above mentioned statements in that post.

Sahani Chandraratna, the communication and health promotion officer of the WHO’s country office for Sri Lanka, responded to the request we made, giving the below clarifications.

A vaccine is introduced into national healthcare systems only after regulatory approval and thorough quality control. Once a vaccine has undergone established development, manufacturing, and clinical testing procedures and is demonstrated to be safe, efficacious, and in line with good manufacturing standards, manufacturers must submit data to be assessed by regulators to authorize use, she said. 

Once manufacturers believe they have the necessary data to secure authorization or a license for the product, they can submit their product for evaluation to a national regulatory authority, a stringent regulatory authority, or to WHO for prequalification or WHO emergency listing (EUL).  A stringent regulatory authority (SRA) is a national drug regulation authority that is considered by WHO to apply stringent standards for quality, safety, and efficacy in its process of regulatory review of drugs and vaccines for marketing authorization. “, Chandraratna added.

Like any medicine or vaccine, COVID19 vaccines can cause mild side effects such as fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pain, and/or pain or redness at the injection site. Mild reactions go away within a few days on their own. Severe or longlasting side effects are extremely rare. Vaccines are continually monitored for safety, to detect rare adverse events. Following the introduction of a vaccine, close monitoring continues to take place to detect any unexpected adverse side effects and further assess effectiveness among even larger numbers of people, to continue assessing how best to use the vaccine for the greatest protective impact. Therefore, it is important that vaccine recipients inform designated health authorities of any experienced side effects or adverse events” she elaborated the issue.

And, we were also able to find an explanatory article released by WHO in early May regarding the details related with Sinopharm vaccine, titled “ The Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know” . According to that report WHO`s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE)  recommended the Sinopharm vaccine for the use of people above 18 after thoroughly assessing the data on quality, safety and the efficacy of the vaccine. And further WHO says that that the clinical data of safety related with the people above the 60 years old are limited and therefore countries who use Sinopharm for people who are above 60 years of old should monitor closely the safety of those people.

The WHO report further says that efficacy of the vaccine against the hospitalization and the symptomatic Covid19 infection is around 79 % after 14 days of the vaccination of second dose.

WHO | Archived

WHO official website also says that approved Covid-19 vaccines can cause mild short term side effects like low grade fever or pain or redness at the injection site. While most side effects are mild and fade away with few days while there is a probability for long term side effects are possible, but extremely rare.

We also noticed extensive explanatory discussions about vaccination and efficacy of different vaccination of Covid19 Prof. Neelika Malavige Head – Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, states that, “while it is difficult to get a very clear picture yet, based on tests done on different parts of the world about the efficacy level of vaccines, all vaccines are effective in reducing deaths and hospitalization, hence it’s very important to get vaccinated, irrespective of the vaccine”. Watch here and here.

However, there were again few reports questioning the effectiveness of Sinopharm vaccine, following a tweet published by Dr. Neelika Malavige on 26th of August, based on a Bahrain study as seen here. Bahrain, which was one of countries where clinical trials were also conducted on Sinopharm has raised concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine in recent times as reported here. There have been few reports questioning the protection levels for elderly with Sinopharm as well.   

However, Dr. Malavige responded to these misleading comments in another Tweet stating that “It is really sad that my twitter posts are taken out of context to create doubt about the efficacy of vaccines. When all evidence to show that all vaccines, significantly reduce severe disease and death. The best one is the first one you can take.” as seen below.

Archived

While there are reports such as this which mentioned few countries with higher infection among vaccinated population had been extensively using Chinese vaccines, WHO has continued to ship Sinopharm and Sinovac doses to many parts of the world as reported here. 

As Sinopharm is the most extensively used vaccine in Sri Lanka, a study was conducted by Sri Lankan experts on the Sinopharm vaccine’s efficiency against Delta variant. The research was led by Dr. Chandima Jayaweera Director, Allergy Immunology Cell Biology Unit Sri Jayewardenepura University in Colombo. Professor concludes that after both doses 95% individuals developed anti bodies and while the rate was higher with younger population, it was even successful among elderly population.   Watch here

We also noticed reports by Global Times which described the effectiveness of Sinopharm and Chinese vaccines against Delta variant as here and here

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Conclusion

It is clear from the tests conducted around the world on effectiveness of different vaccines on different variants of COVID19, comments by WHO and health officials it’s advisable to get vaccinated as early as possible with the available choice of vaccine. A person with any form of vaccination has a higher chance of survival of COVID19 infection as compared to a non-vaccinated person.

The claim of 73 side effects including loss of vision had gone viral based on a news report based on a social media post on Weibo, in which Dr. Tao, a Chinese vaccine expert had commented about the Sinopharm vaccine manual in a sarcastic manner.

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Title:Misleading claims on Sinopharm Vaccine having 73 side effects!

Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Misleading

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