TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Pakistan’s president on Monday (March 29) tested positive for COVID-19 a little over a week after the country’s prime minister was diagnosed with the virus, despite the fact that both had received China’s Sinopharm vaccine.
On Monday, Pakistani President Arif Alvi announced on Twitter that he had COVID despite having gotten the Sinopharm vaccine on March 15. In his post, he called a higher power for help: “May Allah have mercy on the people affected by the coronavirus.”
He stated that although he had received the first dose, the antibodies do not start to build up until after the second dose. He then advised those taking the vaccine to “Please continue to be careful.”
First Lady Samina Alvi said that the president has mild symptoms and “is in good spirits,” reported Radio Pakistan. She added that she has undergone a coronavirus test as well and that the results were negative.
That same day, Imran Ismail, the provincial governor in southern Sindh province, tweeted that the country’s defense minister, Pervez Khattak, has also tested positive. “Perwaiz Khatak is diagnosed with Covid positive. Get well soon PK,” wrote Ismail.
The president’s diagnosis came only nine days after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi tested positive for COVID-19. Like Alvi, Khan tested positive for the virus two days after receiving his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine.
Pakistan has been inoculating its citizens with the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China in February. The jabs are currently being given to healthcare workers as well as residents over the age of 60.
Naila Tariq, a professor of pathology at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Hospital in Karachi, was cited by DW as saying that “Some people are skeptical of the Sinopharm vaccine because it is made in China.”
All three major Chinese vaccine-makers, — Sinopharm, Sinovac, and CanSino Biologics — have been criticized for pushing their products onto the market without publishing comprehensive results of phase 3 clinical trials, prompting even the former chief of the China Food and Drug Administration, Bi Jingquan, to call for the companies to provide more data and transparency, according to SCMP.
The state-owned company which manufactures the vaccine, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products (WIBP), claims the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 72.5 percent, far lower than those of its American rivals Pfizer and Moderna, which have efficacy rates of 95 percent and 94 percent, respectively.
The lab’s vaccines are no stranger to controversy, with the WIBP producing a batch of 400,520 substandard doses of diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough vaccines for infants in 2018. That same year, authorities found evidence of forged data tied to the production of 113,000 rabies vaccines.
The WIBP also has a history of involvement in biological warfare research, with China declaring in 1993 and 1995 that it was one of eight dual-use BW research facilities under its “national defensive biological warfare R&D program.” At the start of the coronavirus pandemic in January of last year, Israeli biological warfare analyst Dany Shoham alleged that the WIBP is tied to China’s defense establishment and is believed to be participating in the “Chinese Biological Weapons Convention program.”
Pakistan is undergoing a third wave of the coronavirus, which the government says is worse than last year when a nationwide lockdown was imposed. This time around, Pakistan has yet to impose a nationwide lockdown, opting for a partial lockdown in a number of cities instead.
Within the past 24 hours, Pakistan has seen 41 deaths and 4,500 newly confirmed cases, reported AP. The South Asian country has so far reported a total of 659,116 cases and 14,256 deaths.