Taiwan news report claims Sinopharm has 73 side effects; PH experts weigh in

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2021 02:54 AM | Updated as of Jan 08 2021 07:14 AM

MANILA — A Taiwanese news website recently claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine of Chinese firm Sinopharm is being called the “most unsafe in the world.”

But a Philippine official and a vaccine expert said it’s only through scientific data that such conclusions can be made. 

A Taiwan News report on Wednesday quoted a Shanghai-based vaccine expert named Tao Lina who claimed that Sinopharm’s instruction manual listed 73 side effects or adverse reactions including high blood pressure, loss of vision and loss of taste. While doctors reportedly joked about the long disclaimer, Tao pointed out that because such side effects are listed on the manual, patients who experience adverse reactions won’t be able to sue the state-owned pharmaceutical firm. 

Sinopharm is among the COVID-19 vaccine frontrunners. Its vaccine is already for limited use in China, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. It also claims to have a 79% efficacy rate against COVID-19.

Sinopharm’s vaccine was also reportedly used to inoculate members of the Presidential Security Group despite not yet being approved for use in the Philippines.

The Taiwan News article said Tao works for the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SCDC) and that his post on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, was deleted by authorities.

ABS-CBN News has reached out to the Chinese Embassy but has yet to receive a reply, as of posting. Meanwhile, MKG Manufacturing Corporation, which claims to be the distributor of Sinopharm in the Philippines, declined to comment.

Asked for a reaction, Philippine Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo said, “If and when they submit an application for EUA [Emergency Use Authorization], all safety concerns will be closely looked into by our experts. As they do for all applications.”

Philippine Foundation for Vaccination’s Dr. Lulu Bravo also said it was necessary to look at the scientific data first.

“If there is no data, then conclusions cannot be made,” she said.

“But safety is always a prime concern! No one will approve an unsafe vaccine,” Bravo added.

The vaccine expert also warned against examining scientific data through online media reports because of the proliferation of fake news.

Among the other side effects mentioned in the manual posted on Weibo are pain, swelling and itching on the vaccination area. The manual also mentioned headache, fever, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, and diarrhea as common “systemic adverse reactions.”

Listed as “occasional” effects are anorexia and vomiting while “very rare” effects include asthma, tonsillitis, eye pain, vision loss, earache, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence and delayed menstruation.