Thailand continues with Sinovac vaccine after ‘stroke-like’ side effects

A healthcare professional prepares a syringe with a dose of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine at Bang Khun Thian Geriatric Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, April 21, 2021. REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand will continue to use China’s Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O) COVID-19 vaccine after six reports of unusual “stroke” side effects among recipients, experts appointed by the government said on Wednesday.

Six doctors in the province of Rayong, east of Bangkok, who were vaccinated earlier this month, had symptoms similar to a stroke, the panel of experts said, including drowsiness and numbness in the limbs.

Since then, they have recovered after receiving stroke treatments and no blood clots have been found.

The announcement comes amid a greater global focus on the levels of efficacy and possible side effects of different COVID-19 vaccines and temporary suspensions in some countries, including reports of blood clots between some recipients.

Sinovac did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comments.

Thailand received two million doses of CoronaVac from the Chinese company, which have already been administered to more than 600,000 people across the country. She ordered another 1.5 million shots and is due to arrive soon.

The experts were unable to say with certainty what caused the symptoms, which they believed to be related to the nervous system and not fatal, said Kulkanya Chokephaibulkit of Bangkok’s Siriraj Hospital.

The brain scans of all six women showed normal results that did not suggest a stroke, and no irregularities were found in the vaccine batch from which the six doses originated, said Kulkanya.

Doses from the same batch have been distributed to other provinces and more than 300,000 people may have already received the injections, she added.

“The panel agreed that we can continue to use this batch of vaccine because the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the temporary effects, which can occur,” said Kulkanya.

None of these effects have been reported previously in Thailand or elsewhere, she added.

The incidents would not change Thailand’s plan to begin mass vaccination starting in June, said Taweesap Siraprapasiri, of the Department of Disease Control.

“Side effects can be monitored and are not beyond what we can expect,” said Taweesap.

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