Doubt after WHO approved Chinese Covid-19 vaccine 0

Doubt after WHO approved Chinese Covid-19 vaccine 0

China is said to be facing a shortage of vaccines and finding it difficult to support poor countries, even though the Sinopharm vaccine has been urgently approved by the WHO.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 7 announced that the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Chinese company Sinopharm helps fight the virus safely and reliably.

The WHO’s approval of the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use means it is likely to be included in the Covax program, a global initiative to provide free vaccines to poor countries.

Medical staff transporting Sinopharm vaccine batches on April 8.

Rich countries are hoarding large quantities of vaccines.

`The addition of Sinopharm will help increase access to Covid-19 vaccines for countries looking to protect their people and medical staff against risks,` Dr. Mariângela Simão, assistant general director

Vaccine access could improve further next week, as the WHO is considering approving another vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac.

Andrea Taylor, a vaccine data analyst at the Duke Global Health Institute, called the addition of two Chinese vaccines to the Covax program a `game changer.`

`The current situation is quite desperate for low- and middle-income countries, so every dose is worth mobilizing,` Taylor said.

However, many people are skeptical about the ability of Chinese vaccines to contribute to global vaccination efforts.

`This should be a golden time for China to carry out its vaccine diplomacy. The problem is, at the same time, China itself is also experiencing a shortage,` Yanzhong Huang, a senior expert on global health, said.

China’s vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, partly because the government prioritized exports and people did not feel vaccination was urgent.

Sinopharm and Sinovac are producing about 12 million doses of vaccine per day, only slightly higher than the 10 million doses that China hopes to supply daily to meet its domestic target.

The two companies will have to produce about 500 million additional doses of vaccine if they want to meet the needs of other countries, according to calculations from Bridge Consulting, a consulting company based in Beijing.

The vaccine shortage highlights the complexity of rolling out China’s mass vaccination campaign while still holding out hope of an ambitious export program.

`The whole world is lacking vaccines, the need is huge,` said Sinovac spokesman Pearson Liu.

Covid-19 vaccine boxes from China’s Sinovac company at Villamor air base, Philippines, February 28.

To minimize the shortage, Chinese officials said people who have received the first shot can delay getting the second shot for up to eight weeks, or they can combine vaccines from different companies.

Chinese vaccines have been shipped to more than 80 countries, but they have faced great skepticism, in part because the country’s companies have not released Phase Three trial data for scientists to independently assess their effectiveness.

Last week, a group advising the WHO released this data.

Data from the advisory group shows they have `a high level of confidence` that the Sinopharm vaccine is effective in preventing Covid-19 in adults, but `a low level of confidence` for people over 60 years old.

WHO said that because Sinopharm did not enroll many people over 60 years old in its clinical trials, it could not estimate its effectiveness in this age group.

Data on the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines against nCoV variants around the world are currently quite limited, but in general, they are inferior to vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

But for the Chinese leadership, the fact that the vaccine was approved by the WHO is no different from a `badge of honor`.

After India last month restricted vaccine exports, Indonesia and the Philippines said they would turn to China for help.

Indonesia announced that it will receive enhanced vaccine batches from Sinovac after President Joko Widodo held talks with President Xi.

It is unclear how approval from WHO will change Beijing’s approach to providing vaccines.

`They don’t want to show their generosity under the United Nations brand,` observed J. Stephen Morrison, director of the global health policy center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Vu Hoang (According to NYTimes)

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