Sinopharm best for adults but effects on children unknown - Dr. Chandima Jeewandara | Sunday Observer
Vaccinated can contract virus with mild symptoms

Sinopharm best for adults but effects on children unknown - Dr. Chandima Jeewandara

25 July, 2021

Scientists at the Sri Jayewardenepura University who studied the efficacy of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine said their research was limited to those over the age of 21 and therefore, they cannot advise on the effects it would have on schoolchildren.

The Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology Unit (AICBU) of the Sri Jayewardenepura University which conducted the highly publicised local research on Sinopharm, said this particular vaccine showed up to 95 percent of efficacy against the virus.

Since the findings, there are calls to use the vaccine on children before schools are reopened for academic activities next month.

Sinopharm is the first Chinese vaccine to receive emergency approval to be used for Covid-19 immunisation in Sri Lanka. It is used mainly in developing countries as the main Covid-19 vaccine, after India stopped exporting Oxford Astrazeneca vaccines to meet its soaring local demand.


“So far only Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been tested and are being used on children in other countries,” AICBU Director Dr. Chandima Jeewandara said.

“Our study covered only those aged 21 and above and there has not been a study to find out the effects of the Sinopharm vaccine on children. So I cannot comment on that,” he said.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccine producers have tested the vaccine on children and developed countries are using these vaccines on children successfully.

The findings of the Sri Jayewardenepura University has boosted the confidence of the people on Sinopharm and allayed certain misconceptions that badly affected the State inoculation drive.

The Chinese vaccine producers have also thanked the local scientists who did the research jointly with the counterparts of the Oxford University in London. Commenting on mixing and matching the vaccines, Dr. Jeewandara said, “Mixing and matching was tried out due to the shortage in vaccines and some rare side effects that were reported with Astrazeneca.

“But the Health Ministry has confirmed that Sri Lanka will receive a consignment of Astrazeneca vaccine doses in the near future.

Therefore, we need not worry about that aspect.”

The Japanese Government said that they will donate 1.45 million doses of Astrazeneca produced in Japan, to Sri Lanka under the WHO’s Convax facility. It is expected to arrive at the end of this month.


However, Dr. Jeewandara said that studies worldwide have indicated that mixing and matching vaccines gives better immunity against the virus.

Commenting on the different vaccines he said, “The Pfizer vaccine is produced in the US. When it was first researched in the US, the Covid-19 variants were different.

“However, later when the highly virulent Delta variant of the Covid-19 was spreading in Israel, the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine dropped to 60 percent and less. Even after two doses, the possibility of contracting the disease was high.”

“The message here is, whatever the vaccine you have received, it will only prevent deaths, and from developing severe cases. It will not stop the disease from spreading and this has been confirmed by studies carried out so far.” Therefore, he warned that health guidelines need to be followed even after receiving both doses.

He said no one can say for certain which vaccine is superior to the other, since no such research has been done by any country so far.

“We are lucky to have got down almost all the vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and in the future we, perhaps, will know which vaccine is the best.

“Our research will help the Health Ministry to decide on a vaccine which is suited for Sri Lanka,” Dr. Jeewandara said. He said, at present, his unit is the only laboratory which can provide data on the various variants of the Covid-19 virus spreading in the country.

“We have not provided reports with exact figures of Delta cases in the country.

We make informed guesses on a percentage basis and our scientists are not in a position to say how many Delta infected people are there in Sri Lanka at present,” he said. The unit has conducted vaccine research studies since the introduction of the Astrazeneca Covisheild vaccine to Sri Lanka earlier this year.


Since then it has conducted several research studies on Sinopharm, Sputnik V and last week they began a study on the Moderna vaccine.

“The research on Sinopharm was conducted in response to a huge demand to express our opinion on the efficacy of the vaccine,” Dr. Jeewandara said.

The key findings were based on the data of 323 people from the community in Colombo. The data was collected before they received the Sinopharm vaccine. To identify the immune response among people, blood samples were collected four weeks after immunisation, before the booster or second shot, and then six weeks later.

“We have found that the majority of the people, over 95 percent, developed very robust antibody responses against the virus Sars-Cov-2 Covid-19,” he said.According to the research findings, young adults developed a very high level of antibodies - 98.9 percent (21-30 years). Those above 60 also had a good antibody response which was 93.3 percent. The overall efficacy in producing antibodies was over 95 percent.

The research was further expanded and these 323 people were compared with 36 people who had natural infection - their antibody levels and T-Cell levels after six weeks.


T-Cells are one of the most important white blood cells in the immune system. The scientists believe more than the antibodies, the T-Cells in the immune system might be able to target and kill the Covid-19 virus to provide lasting immunity.The Covid-19 vaccines which are currently produced with antibodies are showing less efficacy towards new variants.

“We found both groups had very good antibodies and T-cells responses, and they were comparable with each other. So these are very important findings.

“We studied antibody responses against different variants, especially Beta and Delta variants (South African and Indian variants).

“The Sinopharm vaccine produced very good neutralising antibodies and it was even comparable with the natural infection. However, the antibody response for Alpha was lower,” the AICBU Director said.

The research also found that after the Sinopharm vaccine jab, people developed robust T-Cell and B-Cell immunity responses. These Cells play a big role in neutralising the virus.

The research team included scientists from the Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology Unit, Department of Immunology Molecular and Molecular Medicine.

The team included Prof. Neelika Malavige, Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Dr.Ruwan Wijayamuni and Dr.Dinuka Guruge of Colombo Municipality Council and researchers from University of Oxford including Prof. Graham Ogg and Prof. Alain Townsend.

The funding for this study was provided by the World Health Organization, UK Medical Research Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) Innovation Fund for Medical Science (CIFMS), China.