China’s vaccines are poised to fill the gap, but they are facing trust issues

Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the progress in scientific research on a vaccine against the Corona virus and antibodies during his visit to the Academy of Military Medical Sciences in Beijing, capital of China, on March 2, 2020.

Go Bing | Xinhua News Agency Getty Images

As rich countries grab supplies for Covid-19 vaccines, some parts of the world may have to rely on footage developed by China to try to beat the outbreak. Question: Will they work?

There is no external reason to believe that they will not, but China has a history of vaccine scandals, drug makers have revealed little about their final human trials and more than a million emergency vaccinations they say have been conducted within the country. Country already.

Rich countries have retained about 9 billion of the 12 billion rounds developed in the West that are expected to be produced next year, while COVAX, a global effort to ensure equal access to Covid-19 vaccines, May fall short of Promised capacity of 2 billion doses.

For those countries that have yet to get a vaccine, China might be the only solution.

China has six candidates in the final stage of trials and is one of the few countries that can manufacture a vaccine on a large scale. Government officials announced the production capacity of one billion doses next year, and President Xi Jinping pledged that the Chinese vaccines would be a boon to the world.

The potential use of a vaccine by millions of people in other countries gives China an opportunity to repair the damage to its reputation from an outbreak that has escaped its borders and to show the world that it could be a major scientific player.

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However, past scandals have damaged its citizens’ confidence in its vaccines, as manufacturing and supply chain problems cast doubt on whether it can really be a lifesaver.

“There is still a question mark over how China will ensure reliable vaccines are provided,” said Joy Zhang, a professor who studies emerging science ethics at the University of Kent in Britain. She cited “China’s lack of transparency about scientific data and the turbulent history of vaccine delivery.”

Bahrain last week became the second country to approve a Chinese vaccine for Covid-19, and joins the United Arab Emirates. Morocco intends to use Chinese vaccines in a massive vaccination campaign set to start this month. Chinese vaccines are awaiting approval in Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil, while testing continues in more than a dozen countries, including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.

In some countries, Chinese vaccines are viewed with suspicion. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly raised doubts about the efficacy of the Chinese company Sinovac vaccine candidate without citing any evidence, and said the Brazilians would not be used as “guinea pigs”.

Many experts praise China for its vaccine capabilities.

“The studies seem to have been well done,” said Jimmy Trikas, chair of immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Sydney’s School of Medicine, referring to clinical trial results published in scientific journals. “I will not be overly concerned about that.”

China has been building its immunization programs for more than a decade. Jin Dong Yan, a professor of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said it has produced successful vaccines on a large scale for its residents, including measles and hepatitis vaccines.

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“There are no major outbreaks in China for any of these diseases,” he said. This means that vaccines are safe and effective.

China has worked with the Gates Foundation and others to improve manufacturing quality in the past decade. The World Health Organization has qualified five non-Covid-19 Chinese vaccines, allowing UN agencies to purchase them for other countries.

Companies whose products have received pre-qualification include state-owned Sinovac and Sinopharm, both of which are leading developers of Covid-19 vaccines.

However, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of Sinopharm behind one of the candidates for Covid-19, fell into a vaccine scandal in 2018.

Government inspectors found that the company, based in the city where the Coronavirus was first detected last year, made hundreds of thousands of ineffective doses of a combination vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis due to equipment malfunction.

In the same year it was reported that Changsheng Biotechnology Co falsified data on rabies vaccine.

In 2016, Chinese media revealed that two million doses of different vaccines for children had been improperly stored and sold across the country for years.

Vaccination rates decreased after those scandals.

“All of my local Chinese friends are white collar, and they are affluent, and none of them will buy medicines made in China. That is just the case,” said Ray Yip, former country director of the Gates Foundation. An institution in China. He said he is one of the few who is okay with buying Chinese-made medicines.

China revised its laws in 2017 and 2019 to tighten vaccine storage management and step up inspections and penalties for defective vaccines.

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The country’s major Covid-19 vaccine developers have published some scientific findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals. But international experts questioned how China recruited volunteers and what kind of tracking was there for potential side effects. Chinese companies and government officials have not released details.

Now, after releasing data on the efficacy of Western-made vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, experts are waiting to see the Chinese results. Regulators in the United Arab Emirates, where the Sinopharm vaccine was tested, said it appears to be 86% effective based on interim clinical trial data. On Thursday, the Turkish government announced this Sinovac is 91.25% effective. Of temporary data.

Sinopharm did not respond to a request for comment on vaccine efficacy data. Sinovac and CanSino, another Chinese vaccine company, did not respond to interview requests.

For some people in countries where the epidemic is showing no signs of abating, the country of origin of the vaccine does not matter.

“I intend to take it, first thing to come, if things go right,” said Daniel Alves Santos, a chef at a restaurant in Rio de Janeiro. “I hope God helps.”

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