New Delhi, April 12: China’s top health official has admitted for the first time ever that the Chinese coronavirus vaccines are not very effective and the government is exploring the option of mixing different Covid-19 vaccines to give them a boost, according to a news report in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post.
The credibility of Chinese vaccines has always been in doubt to the outside world with countries such as Brazil initially starting with them but then switching over to Indian vaccines instead. Brazil had found out in its trials that the Chinese vaccines had a very low efficacy and the Chinese companies were refusing to live up to their promise of sharing more data about them. China’s worst kept secret is now out in the open.
Similarly, countries in the ASEAN block had stayed away from Chinese vaccines despite Beijing’s hectic diplomatic efforts to rope them in as part of its geopolitical strategy.
Interestingly, China itself had signed an agreement with Pfizer-BioNtech to import vaccines from Germany despite making tall claims about its own vaccines. This was a strong indicator that the Chinese vaccine was not doing well.
The head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday that the country was examining two routes “to solve the problem that the efficacy of its existing vaccines is not high.”
“One option is to adjust the dosage, the interval between doses or increase the number of doses. The second route is to mix vaccines that use different technologies,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post cited him as saying.
China had also been blowing hot and cold over Indian vaccines. Similarly, while Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece Global Times had grudgingly conceded that India had world class facilities to produce vaccines. However it also claimed that India is exporting its vaccines to gain influence among poor countries.
China is a country that is notorious for industrial espionage and various cyber attacks were launched on the data servers of India’s two Covid-19 vaccine makers Serum Institute of India and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech to gain access to inside information. US intelligence reports have also detected that Chinese industrial spies have infiltrated large western corporations including those in the pharmaceutical sector.
China’s vaccine diplomacy flops
Beijing had promised over 20 countries including Brazil and the ASEAN members that it would supply them with reliable vaccines. However, with China’s vaccine development programme getting discredited these countries have suffered a setback in the war against Covid-19. They are now turning to the western countries, India and Russia to meet their vaccine requirements.
At least 24 countries, most of them low and middle income, signed deals with the Chinese vaccine companies. But the delays in getting the Chinese vaccines and the fact that the vaccines are less effective mean that those countries may take longer to defeat the virus.
China’s coronavirus vaccines were supposed to deliver a geopolitical win that showcased the country’s scientific prowess and generosity. Instead, in some places, they have set off a backlash, the report.
In the Philippines, some lawmakers have criticized the government’s decision to buy a vaccine made by a Chinese company, Sinovac. Officials in Malaysia and Singapore, which both ordered doses from Sinovac, have had to reassure their citizens that they would approve a vaccine only if it had been proved safe and effective.
Similarly, Turkey which was relying on China has also complained about delays in getting the vaccine which has hindered its fight against the pandemic. Turkey had to turn to Russia for help to get the Sputnik V vaccine.
Volte-face on Pfizer, Moderna
A New York Times report had pointed out that Beijing officials who had hoped the vaccines would burnish China’s global reputation are now on the defensive. State media has started a misinformation campaign against the American vaccines, questioning the safety of the Pfizer and Moderna shots and promoting the Chinese vaccines as a better alternative.
China has also distributed online videos that have been shared by the anti-vaccine movement in the United States.
Now in a volte-face Chinese experts are saying that these mRNA vaccines are more effective than China-made vaccines.
However, due to the acute shortage of vaccines worldwide some countries are using China-made doses to fight the deadly coronavirus pandemic. These countries will now have to formulate their future strategy keeping in mind the new confirmation about the weak protection that Chinese vaccines provide.
(This content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)