(CMR) The Cayman Islands Acting Chief Medical Officer has permitted a shipment of about 30 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to be imported into the Cayman Islands. Initially, there was some controversy around the matter but by Thursday afternoon Dr Samuel Williams-Rodriguez confirmed that the vaccine had been allowed into the Cayman Islands.
The vaccine's approval came too late and the shipment was not able to make the flight before the close off time. Hopes are that it can be sent via another courier option.
On Wednesday CMR received some information that Dr. Steve Tomlinson was seeking approval to import the Sinopharm vaccine for his own personal use – for essentially him and his immediate family. The vaccine is being used in some countries such as Barbados.
Speaking exclusively to CMR, Dr. Tomlison shared that:
“Cayman Airways was given the approval to bring them in too late on Tuesday, the flight had already closed and the passenger who was bringing the vaccines was already aboard. Working on getting them from Barbados this week. My wife, Eva, has CLL and won't be taking the Pfizer vaccine. One way to get more people vaccinated is to give them choice. There is nothing in our Public Health Law that prohibits the importation of any WHO approved vaccine.”
Dr. Steve Tomlinson
It was alleged that Dr. Elizabeth Ferdinand, a senior member of the health services in Barbados had taken the package of vaccines to the airport in Barbados to be placed on a Cayman chartered flight on Tuesday afternoon. Cayman Airways refused to allow the package on the instructions of Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee. The matter became muddled after it was revealed that Dr. Lee was off-island it fell to Dr. Williams to make the decision. Elected officials informed the relevant parties that there is nothing in the law that would prevent the importation. Dr Tomlinson shared that the Health and Wellness Minister, The Honourable Sabrina Turner was hesitant to inform Dr. Williams of the legal position.
Dr Williams at that point was still conveying the original position that Dr Lee has declined approval for the vaccine to come into the Cayman Islands. Requesting further assistance from Cayman Airways was also unsuccessful. According to Dr Williams, Public Health here was informed by Public Health, UK that they have not approved the Sinopharm vaccine although it is WHO approved and that's the reason for Dr Lee's denial.
This prompted a swift response from Dr. Tomlinson who was legally willing to change the CMO on this point. However, by late Thursday afternoon, Dr Williams replied to a media query, responding simply that “this vaccine was allowed to enter the Cayman Islands.”
Dr. Tomlinson was of the opinion that the reluctance to allow the vaccine was politically motivated since it was developed in China.
A Peru study released just a day ago found that the Sinopharm COVID vaccine is about 50.4% effective against infections according to a Reuter news report. The test group was nearly 400,000 frontline health workers in Peru who were seeing a surge in cases fuelled by virus variants. The majority has received two doses of the vaccine.
The vaccine, however, was 94% effective at preventing deaths after two doses.
“The efficacy to prevent infection is not high and this is something to consider once a high percentage of the population receives its two doses, (the) moment when boosters can be considered to optimize the protection of frontline health workers,”
Peru has the highest pandemic death count per capita in the world, which scientists say was caused by the Lambda variant first identified late last year and made worse by a fragile healthcare system.
The Sinopharm vaccine has been approved in over 50 countries. It got WHO approval on May 7, 2021.
The Sinopharm vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (CNBG). Sinopharm relies on the older but tested inactivated virus technology, which involves taking dead coronavirus and injecting them into the body. The process essentially forces the body to produce antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.