Questions about the efficacy of China’s vaccines cause anxiety at home and abroad

this Omicron variants Last week, governments around the world were forced to strengthen border controls, speed up vaccination and restore social distancing. But in Dalian, China, the authorities reclassified the virus risk in parts of the northeastern port city from “medium” to “low”.

Chinese health officials and experts say this contrast reflects how Beijing’s unwavering zero coronavirus policy proved to be a “magic bullet” that prevented at least 200 million infections and 3 million deaths. They believe that the arrogance of the West has led to negligence and the now destabilizing Omicron outbreak.

The nationalist news service “Global Times” reported: “If the variant proves to be highly contagious, Western countries are likely to be caught by Omicron because they unscientifically relax epidemic control measures and overconfidence in vaccines. .”

Official media CrowHowever, as Beijing introduced enhanced injections and vaccination for 3-year-old children, many Chinese people have become uncertain about the effectiveness and durability of the immunity of vaccines produced in China.

Suspicion of vaccination is not only important for the world’s most populous country, which has injected 2.5 billion doses of vaccine to 1.4 billion people. They are also important for hundreds of millions of people who have been vaccinated with vaccines produced by Sinovac and Sinopharm—both companies use inactivated vaccines instead of the genetic code used in mRNA vaccines such as BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna.

Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong, said, “Compared with other widely used vaccines (such as two mRNA vaccines and AstraZeneca vaccine), there are still more uncertainties about the effectiveness of inactivated vaccines.”

China’s Recent delta outbreak -Spread to more than half of the country’s provinces and prompt local lockdowns-shows that vaccines made in China “can not be as effective against infection and transmission because very strict public health measures are still needed to control these outbreaks,” Kaolin said.

But this outbreak also shows that “the effectiveness of the vaccine against severe Covid appears to be high, because the recent outbreak rarely includes severe cases”.

Omicron variant, it has Spread rapidly Newly tested vaccines have been launched as far away as London, New York and Seoul.

according to First detailed study According to South African epidemiologists, compared with previous waves, Omicron is associated with a significant increase in coronavirus reinfection.

In many poorer countries, after the Covax vaccine initiative led by the United Nations-backed alliance Gavi struggled to reach its goals, China’s vaccines are critical to saving lives in the early stages of a pandemic. Assignment target. Despite the speed and scale of the launch, Vaccine uncertainty It has always existed in China and abroad.

This part is caused by the Chinese government. Since the coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan nearly two years ago, Beijing’s censorship agencies have eliminated any signs of dissent or questioning the country’s response.

this Lack of transparency The effectiveness and continued decline of the jab worries many Chinese, especially parents of young children and the elderly. According to interviews and private social media chat groups seen by the British Financial Times, in recent months, parents have been quietly trying to refuse to allow their children to be vaccinated.

A health worker in Sao Paulo, Brazil is injecting a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to a resident in a car
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a health worker is injecting a dose of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to a resident in a car. Vaccines developed in China accounted for the majority of injections in the early stages of the country’s vaccination campaign © Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg

The population of Latin America and the Caribbean only accounts for 8% of the world’s population, and of all Covid-related deaths, the death toll in this region is close to one-third. Although China provides almost twice as many vaccines as the United States — most of which are distributed through Covax — countries are increasingly turning to other manufacturers.

Last year, the Brazilian State of São Paulo and Sanova established a partnership, just like President Jair Bolsonaro Facing criticism In recognition of his government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis. In the most populous country in Latin America, vaccines developed by China accounted for most of the injections in the early stages of vaccination campaigns, but have been replaced by Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

São Paulo officials initially claimed that the CoronaVac vaccine produced by Sinovac has shown 78% efficacy in mild to severe cases in local trials. But after criticizing the lack of data transparency, the scientists announced that once “very mild” cases were included, the overall rate after a few days was only 50.4%-slightly higher than the threshold required for regulatory approval.

Researchers at the State’s Butantan Institute filled and completed the CoronaVac vaccine in Brazil, and later stated that if there is a gap of 21 days or more between the two doses, it may reach 62.3%. But people questioned the length of the immunization period.

Butantan has supplied more than 100 million doses of CoronaVac, most of which are produced in its own factory. However, a spokesperson said that there are no further domestic supply contracts or any negotiations with the federal government.

In Singapore last week, the Ministry of Health stated that starting next month, people who have received two doses of Kexing or Sinopharm vaccine will need a third dose to be considered “completely vaccinated.”

Although China’s vaccines seem to have fallen out of favor, the pace of development Beijing’s vaccine diplomacy It will not be so easy to undo.

“them [the Chinese] Using a tactical window, they have already pressed other geostrategic priorities – [the acceptance of] Huawei [network technology], Taiwan Recognized,” said Daniel Runde of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an American think tank.

Many health experts also warn that politics is hampering scientific cooperation and discussion in response to the pandemic, especially between the West and China.

Jerome King, an immunologist and director of the United Nations International Vaccine Institute, who has worked with Chinese and Western vaccine developers, warned that the jab itself is not a solution.

“Globally, we have seen the effectiveness of vaccination, but the infection, disease and death of Covid-19 still exist,” he said.

“Have we forgotten that as part of a systemic prevention method, vaccines are usually the most effective, and for Covid-19, this method still includes wearing a mask, keeping distance, avoiding crowds, isolation, testing and boosting injections? ?”

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding in Beijing and Mercedes Ruehl in Singapore

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