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Wednesday Sep 09 2020
By
Reuters

Coronavirus vaccine: CanSino Phase 3 trial set to begin this month in Pakistan

By
Reuters
A small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine" sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of displayed "Coronavirus COVID-19" words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

ISLAMABAD: The Phase 3 trial for a potential coronavirus vaccine under China's biopharmaceutical company, CanSino Biologics Inc, is set to begin in Pakistan later this month as scheduled despite the falling COVID-19 infection numbers, officials running the clinical research said.

Pakistan’s drug regulator last month gave the go-ahead for the country’s first Phase 3 clinical trial for CanSino's candidate, Ad5-nCoV, which will be led by the government-run National Institute of Health (NIH) along with pharmaceutical company AJM — the local representative of CanSino.

"We are planning to launch the project on September 20, or at the latest within this month," Hassan Abbas Zaheer, who is heading the trial for AJM, told Reuters.

The Ad5-nCoV vaccine and placebo injections are due to be received in Pakistan next week.

Read more: Pakistan green-signals Phase III clinical trial of coronavirus vaccine

Daily positive cases in Pakistan peaked at more than 6,000 in June, but have since fallen sharply, with only 426 confirmed new cases detected on September 8 - taking its total to 299,659 and 6,359 deaths.

Zaheer said the low positive rates did not indicate COVID-19 was no longer present in the country, and the potential for people vaccinated in the trial to be infected was still adequate for testing their immunity.

"We feel people are still getting infected but not getting tested, so the virus is still there," he said.

Pakistan, a country of more than 220 million people, has been testing between 20,000 to 30,000 daily.

Also read: China's COVID-19 vaccine approved for military use

Aamer Ikram, Executive Director of the NIH, told Reuters that officials believed the prevalence of the virus in Pakistan was low, despite the low testing rate, but researchers had a plan in place for the trial.

"We have been strategising with CanSino on how to make sure people who are more exposed to the virus are recruited for volunteers, so we will be targeting front-line workers who have more chances of exposure."

The Ad5-nCoV trial will recruit around 8,000 volunteers, most of whom will be health workers. They will be recruited over a four-month period and followed for 12 months after receiving the vaccine or placebo.

Related:

COVID-19: Pakistan to run Phase 3 trials of vaccine developed by China’s CNBG