WHO experts voice ‘very low confidence’ in some Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine data

WHO experts voice ‘very low confidence’ in some Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine data
(File: Reuters)
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Updated 05 May 2021

WHO experts voice ‘very low confidence’ in some Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine data

WHO experts voice ‘very low confidence’ in some Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine data
  • WHO experts express overall confidence that two doses of Sinopharm vaccine are effective in preventing COVID-19 in adults
  • But it said it had concerns regarding the risk of serious side-effects in some patients

GENEVA: WHO experts have voiced "very low confidence" in data provided by Chinese state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm on its COVID-19 vaccine regarding the risk of serious side-effects in some patients, but overall confidence in its ability to prevent the disease, a document seen by Reuters shows.
There was no immediate reply from the World Health Organization to a query about any concerns linked to the Sinopharm vaccine, BBIBP-CorV. In Beijing, Sinopharm was not immediately reachable for comment outside working hours.
The "evidence assessment" document was prepared by the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) for its review scheduled this week of the Sinopharm shot, authorised by 45 countries and jurisdictions for use in adults, with 65 million doses administered. The experts review evidence and give recommendations on policy and dosages associated with a vaccine.
The document includes summaries of data from clinical trials in China, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
Vaccine efficacy in multi-country Phase 3 clinical trials was 78.1% after two doses, the document said. This was a slight drop from 79.34% announced previously in China.
"We are very confident that 2 doses of BBIBP-CorV are efficacious in preventing PCR confirmed COVID19 in adults (18-59 years)," the document said.
But it added: "Analysis of safety amongst participants with comorbidities (was) limited by the low number of participants with comorbidities (other than obesity) in the Phase 3 trial."
Among "evidence gaps", it cited data on protection against severe disease, duration of protection, safety for use in pregnant women and in older adults and identification/evaluation of rare adverse events through post-authorisation safety monitoring.
"We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV in older adults (≥60 years) is low," it said.
"We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events in individuals with comorbidities or health states that increase risk for severe COVID-19 following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV is low," it added.
The SAGE analysis was prepared as a WHO technical advisory group currently reviews the vaccine for an emergency use approval, which would not only pave the way for its use in the global COVAX vaccine sharing platform but also provide a crucial international endorsement for a vaccine developed in China.
A WHO spokesman said that a decision on the listing was not expected on Wednesday.


At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas
Updated 12 June 2021

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

At least 12 injured in shooting in downtown Austin, Texas

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Officials in Texas say at least nine people have been injured following a shooting Saturday morning in downtown Austin.
Police said in a tweet that multiple victims had injuries. The Austin-Travis County EMS said in a series of tweets that at least 12 patients had received treatment or been transported to local hospitals.
It was unknown how many of the injuries may have been gunshot wounds.
It was unclear what sparked the shooting. Police have not announced any suspects or arrests.


Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
Updated 12 June 2021

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word

Francer’s Macron offers UK’s Johnson: ‘Le reset’ if he keeps his Brexit word
  • Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured

CARBIS BAY, England: French President Emmanuel Macron offered on Saturday to reset relations with Britain as long as Prime Minister Boris Johnson stood by the Brexit divorce deal he signed with the European Union.
Since Britain completed its exit from the EU late last year, relations with the bloc and particularly France have soured, with Macron becoming the most vocal critic of London’s refusal to honor the terms of part of its Brexit deal.
At a meeting at the Group of Seven world’s most advanced economies in southwestern England, Macron told Johnson the two countries had common interests, but that ties could only improve if Johnson kept his word on Brexit.
“The president told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship,” the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans,” the source said, adding that Macron spoke in English to Johnson.
Johnson will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Saturday, where she could also raise the row over part of the EU divorce deal, called the Northern Ireland protocol.
The British leader, who is hosting the G7 meeting, wants the summit to focus on global issues, but has stood his ground on trade with Northern Ireland, calling on the EU to be more flexible in its approach to easing trade to the province from Britain.


Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
Updated 12 June 2021

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump

Russia’s Vladimir Putin hopes US counterpart Joe Biden less impulsive than Donald Trump
  • Russian leader describes Biden as a ‘career man’ who has spent his life in politics
  • Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as ‘a killer’

WASHINGTON: Russian President Vladimir Putin voiced hope Friday that US President Joe Biden will be less impulsive than his predecessor Donald Trump, ahead of his first summit with the new US leader.
In an interview with NBC News, Putin described Biden as a “career man” who has spent his life in politics.
Though he described relations with the United States as having “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years,” Putin said he expects he can work with Biden.
“It is my great hope that, yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting US president,” he said, according to a translation by NBC News.
“I believe that former US president Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... He is a colorful individual. You may like him or not. But he didn’t come from the US establishment,” Putin was quoted as saying.
Biden plans to raise a range of US complaints, including over purported Russian election interference and hacking, in the summit with Putin on Wednesday in Geneva at the end of the new president’s first foreign trip.
Putin has openly admitted that in the 2016 vote he supported Trump, who had voiced admiration for the Russian leader. At their first summit, Trump infamously appeared to accept Putin’s denials of election interference.
Biden has said he is under no illusions about Putin and has described him as “a killer” in light of a series of high-profile deaths including of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov.
Asked directly if he is “a killer,” Putin chuckled but did not give a yes or no answer.
“Over my tenure, I’ve gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness, and none of it surprises me,” he said, adding that the term “killer” was a “macho” term common in Hollywood.
Such discourse “is part of US political culture where it’s considered normal. By the way, not here, it is not considered normal here,” he said.
Putin also dismissed as “fake news” a report in the Washington Post that Russia is planning to supply Iran with an advanced satellite system that would allow it to track potential military targets.
“At the very least, I don’t know anything about this kind of thing,” the Russian leader said, speaking from the Kremlin. “It’s just nonsense garbage.”
According to interviewer Keir Simmons, Putin also denied any knowledge of cyberattacks on the United States, and called on Biden to strike a deal with Russia on cyberspace.


China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
Updated 12 June 2021

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin

China, US diplomats clash over human rights, COVID-19 pandemic origin
  • Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China

BEIJING: Top US and Chinese diplomats appear to have had another sharply worded exchange, with Beijing saying it told the US to cease interfering in its internal affairs and accusing Washington of politicizing the search for the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior Chinese foreign policy adviser Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a phone call Friday that revealed wide divisions in a number of contentious areas, including the curtailing of freedoms in Hong Kong and the mass detention of Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
Calls for a more thorough investigation into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 are particularly sensitive for China because of suggestions that it might have Blinked escaped from a laboratory in the central city of Wuhan, where cases were first discovered.
Yang said China was “gravely concerned” over what he called “absurd” stories that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab.
China “firmly opposes any despicable acts that use the epidemic as an excuse to slander China and to shift blames,” Yang was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
“Some people in the United States have fabricated and peddled absurd stories claiming Wuhan lab leak, which China is gravely concerned about,” Yang said. “China urges the United States to respect facts and science, refrain from politicizing COVID-19 origin tracing and concentrate on international anti-pandemic cooperation.”
The State Department said Blinken “stressed the importance of cooperation and transparency regarding the origin of the virus, including the need for (World Health Organization) Phase 2 expert-led studies in China.”
The US and others have accused China of failing to provide the raw data and access to sites that would allow a more thorough investigation into where the virus sprung from and how it initially spread.
Equally contentious were the issues of Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Taiwan and accusations that China has arbitrarily detained two Canadian citizens in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of an executive of Chinese communications technology giant Huawei, who is wanted by US law enforcement.
The US has “fabricated various lies about Xinjiang in an attempt to sabotage the stability and unity in Xinjiang, which confuse right and wrong and are extremely absurd. China is firmly opposed to such actions,” Yang said.
“Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” and those found in violation of a sweeping national security law imposed on the former British colony “must be punished,” Yang said.
Blinken, on the other hand, underscored US concern over the deterioration of democratic norms in Hong Kong and the ongoing “genocide and crimes against humanity against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang,” the State Department said.
He also urged Beijing to ease pressure against Taiwan, the self-governing island democracy China claims as its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary.
According to Xinhua, Yang said Taiwan involves China’s “core interests” and that Beijing “firmly defends its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The tone of the phone call seemed to echo contentious talks in March in Alaska, when the sides traded sharp and unusually public barbs over vastly different views of each other and the world in their first face-to-face meeting since President Joe Biden took office.
At that meeting, the US accused the Chinese delegation of “grandstanding,” while Beijing fired back, saying there was a “strong smell of gunpowder and drama” that was entirely the fault of the Americans.
Relations between them have deteriorated to their lowest level in decades, with the Biden administration showing no signs of deviating from the established US hard-line against China over trade, technology, human rights and China’s claim to the South China Sea.
Beijing, meanwhile, has fought back doggedly against what it sees as attempts to smear its reputation and restrain its development.
On Thursday, its ceremonial legislature passed a law to retaliate against sanctions imposed on Chinese politicians and organizations, threatening to deny entry to and freeze the Chinese assets of anyone who formulates or implements such measures, potentially placing new pressure on foreign companies operating in the country.


China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks
Updated 12 June 2021

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks

China urges US, Russian nuclear cuts and progress in Iran talks
  • Says "unilateral bullying acts of the US" were the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue.

GENEVA: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the United States and Russia on Friday to further cut their nuclear arsenals, days before US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a summit in Geneva.
Wang, addressing the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament from Beijing, said that fresh reductions by the two powers would help spur multilateral nuclear disarmament, and he also took a thinly-veiled swipe at the United States.
“China opposes the development and deployment of regional and global missile defense systems by a certain country that undermine strategic stability, and China opposes the deployment of land-based intermediate-range ballistic missiles by the same country in the neighborhood of other countries,” Wang said.
The Biden administration has said the United States intends to compete with China’s growing influence and military strength in the Asia-Pacific. China is also a nuclear power but its arsenal is much smaller.
US disarmament ambassador Robert Wood took the floor at the Geneva forum to urge China to engage in bilateral talks on risk reduction and strategic stability, in line with previous statements.
“To date, China has rebuffed US efforts to initiate bilateral talks on risk reduction and strategic stability,” Wood said.
Wang said “unilateral bullying acts of the United States” were the root cause of the Iranian nuclear issue.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from world powers’ 2015 accord with Iran designed to deny it the ability to build nuclear weapons, then reimposed harsh US sanctions on Tehran.
“To return to the deal, lifting sanctions on Iran first is the natural thing to do,” Wang said.
As talks between Iran and the United States in Vienna to revive the 2015 deal were in a “final sprint,” parties to the accord must redouble diplomatic efforts to “bring the JCPOA back on track,” Wang said, using the agreement’s official acronym.