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Peru Halts Trial for Chinese Covid-19 Vaccine

LIMA, Peru—Peru’s Health Ministry said Saturday it has suspended a trial for a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine after a participant presented health problems.

The Healthy Ministry said a trial with 12,000 volunteers for China’s Sinopharm vaccine has been temporarily put on hold as it investigates whether the vaccine caused what it described as a “serious adverse event” in one of the participants. The trial was expected to finish in the coming days.

Germán Málaga, a health researcher at the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, where the trial is taking place, said a volunteer presented neurological problems, resulting in difficulty moving his legs. Dr. Málaga told radio station RPP Noticias that he didn’t believe the health problem was due to the vaccine, but more information was needed.

“We are concerned about the situation, and we are providing all of our help and support to ensure that it is cleared up,” he said.

The United Arab Emirates said this week that its own trial for the Sinopharm vaccine had shown that it was 86% effective in protecting people from Covid-19.

The U.A.E.’s trial included 31,000 people, although authorities didn’t disclose how many infection cases the efficacy estimate was based on. The more cases, the more reliable the results are considered to be. The analysis of its effectiveness against Covid-19 was also only for a strain of the vaccine developed in Beijing. Another strain has been developed in Wuhan.

In Peru, it isn’t clear which Sinopharm strain was used in the country’s trial. A spokesman for the Health Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Sinopharm didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Chinese vaccine makers face pressure to provide clinical evidence that their experimental candidates work, after leading Western vaccines, including one developed by

Pfizer Inc.

and German partner

BioNTech

SE, have been shown to be extremely effective. Public-health experts have criticized China for authorizing emergency use of its vaccines, before solid clinical evidence is presented.

Sinopharm is testing its vaccines in Argentina, Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco and Russia. Egypt and Indonesia have already received early batches of the vaccines.

In China, nearly one million people have received vaccines from Sinopharm, including Chinese workers going abroad, government officials and students.

Peru has confirmed more than 36,500 deaths from Covid-19, giving it one of the highest per capita mortality rates in the world.

The country of 32 million people has signed a deal with Pfizer to receive some 9.9 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. Government officials here hope the first batch of that vaccine will be delivered around March or April.

Peru also has signed an agreement to receive vaccines from a World Health Organization-backed initiative, called Covax. That program aims to distribute some 2 billion vaccines to poorer countries by the end of 2021.

Write to Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com

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