The Chinese Embassy, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the St Augustine Medical Laboratory (STAML), have all condemned an Express newspaper article that challenged the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The article, published in the newspaper’s Sunday edition, implied the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is ineffective at generating immunity against the disease.
Four titer antibody tests done by STAML were used as part of a report which sought to compare antibody levels between people vaccinated with Sinopharm and AstraZeneca. The report has since garnered heavy criticism.
Dr Rowley last evening described the report as the “worst piece of irresponsible journalism” he’s ever seen and even called for someone to be fired.
“In a pandemic, where thousands of doctors and many international agencies and hundreds of thousands of newspapers and other media entities are present and reporting, the Express has made the discovery as published to undermine a vaccine which might very well be a victim of geopolitics,” he said.
“Where is the science here? Who are the people responsible for this data set being published in this way? It’s not only embarrassing it is downright destructive and worrisome. Who will be fired here? To attempt to undermine a nation’s vaccination program in a pandemic is nothing short of criminal!”
PAHO also issued a release last evening reassuring that all World Health Organisation (WHO) Emergency Use Licensed (EUL) vaccines are safe and effective.
“PAHO/WHO reassures the public that all EUL-approved vaccines are proven to be effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalisation and death. Infection can be prevented through booster doses in the case of Sinopharm AND the rigorous application of the mitigation measures,” she said.
“Sinopharm has an efficacy rate of 79 per cent against symptomatic disease and 79 per cent against hospitalization. Minimal and extremely rare adverse events have been reported since the vaccine’s introduction in the general population.”
In a release last evening, the Chinese Embassy described the report as a “farce.”
“The conclusions of the news report are based on a crude and amateurish “study” with only 4 samples, and thus completely a farce,” it said.
“This most irresponsible media report has blatantly ignored plenty of the world-recognised scientific researches, distorted the facts, violated journalism ethics, created public panic and meant to undermine the resolve and actions of the Trinidad and Tobago people in their brave battle against this pandemic at this critical moment. We deeply deplore and firmly oppose this media report, urge relevant parties to immediately rectify its wrongdoing, take concrete measures to undo the damage, and not to move further down the wrong path.”
While the St Augustine lab performed the titer antibody tests, it said in a release it was not contracted by the media house to perform any tests for its report.
“STAML was never engaged by any media house or media personnel to
participate in any analysis for the purpose of assessing the reliability of any vaccine, and statements alluding to same are wholly untrue and reckless,” it said.
STAML director Dr Shari Ramsaran told Guardian Media yesterday that the test they performed that was obtained by the media house is not the right one to draw the conclusion the article attempted to do.
“The way in which this test was used to generate that conclusion was absolutely false and it’s terrible misinformation going out towards the public,” she said.
“What was actually interpreted from an antibody report is just - in putting it nicely - it was utter garbage to read and disappointing.”
She said the tests needed to evaluate what the article wanted would need to be done at a research laboratory, not a clinical laboratory, like STAML.
Furthermore, she said using four patients as the sample is grossly inadequate to generate a generalised conclusion as the article did - especially as a number of variables weren’t taken into consideration.
She feared the article will do nothing but generate panic among the public, many of whom are already vaccine-hesitant.
“It puts so much doubt (into the public) and really turns all the work around that other bodies have done encouraging vaccinations thus far,” she said.
Dr Ramsaran said what the tests did show was, in fact, that the vaccine does work and does generate an antibody response.
“That’s what the discussion should have been because that what the result proves, that every vaccine that has been given to patients produces an antibody response so they have the fight against COVID so for the layperson sitting down there, that should be the message go get vaccinated. Look at the antibody response, it couldn’t be clearer,” she said.
Senior officials at the Express could not be reached for comment.