COVID Outbreaks Continue in Many Countries Taking Chinese Vaccines

Most doses administered in Seychelles, Bahrain, Chile & Mongolia were developed by China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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COVID Outbreaks Continue in Many Countries Taking Chinese Vaccines

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Ever since China commenced its vaccine diplomacy programme, with president Xi Jinping pledging to make China's easy-to-store, state-developed vaccines available across the world, hundreds of millions of doses have been shipped to more than 80 countries worldwide.

Most of the doses administered in countries such as Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain, and Mongolia, which have the highest rates of inoculated populations in the world, were developed by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.

However, these countries continue to witness a new wave of coronavirus infections, reported The New York Times.

Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, pointed out to the publication, “If the vaccines are sufficiently good, we should not see this pattern."

The Vaccines' Effect on Transmission

As per 'Our World in Data', 50 to 68 percent of the populations have been fully inoculated with Chinese vaccines in Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain, and Mongolia, NYT reported.

However, as these nations witness new outbreaks of the virus, the efficacy of Chinese vaccines in face of transmission comes into question.

A report in NYT notes that while only 45 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated with doses manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, COVID infections have dropped 94 percent over six months.


Meanwhile, the small archipelago nation of Seychelles, which has emerged as the world’s most vaccinated country for COVID-19, is still recording over 716 cases per million in a single day.

This figure is staggering as you look toward the second most inoculated country in the world, Israel, which is only seeing around 4.95 confirmed COVID cases per million.

The only difference in their inoculation drives is the vaccine they're employing – Israel is administering Pfizer shots, while Seychelles is inoculating the majority of its population with Sinopharm.


Mongolia, which has been a recipient of Chinese aid, expedited its inoculation policy and relaxed its COVID protocols, vaccinating 52 percent of its population. However, the nation reported 2,400 new infections on Sunday, an increase of around four times from the previous month, NYT reported.


Earlier this month, the island nation of Bahrain had reportedly started giving Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to vulnerable residents who had taken the full vaccine of the state-owned Chinese drug maker Sinopharm.

So far, Sinopharm accounts for 60 percent of Bahrain’s vaccination. Waleed Khalifa al Manea, Bahrain’s undersecretary of health, said over 90 percent of people hospitalised in the current wave had not been vaccinated, The Wall Street Journal reported.


Chile has also achieved high vaccine coverage, mostly with Sinovac. Around 75 percent of the adult population has received one dose, and 58 percent two doses, ABC News reported.

Despite this, a current surge in infections and consistent high numbers of deaths had prompted a blanket lockdown across the capital, Santiago, earlier this month.

The spread may be related to the more transmissible Gamma variant, which first emerged in Brazil.


What This Suggests

As per the NYT report, these examples among others hint at the Chinese vaccines' inefficacy regarding the prevention of the spread of the virus, most pointedly, the new variants.

Amid the confounding outbreaks, scientists have also cited easing of social controls and careless behaviour for the spike in infections.

The report also asserted that China, as well as the the other nations that have received Chinese aid, may end up as fully vaccinated, partially protected countries, which continue to combat the virus with lockdowns, enhanced testing, and restrictions imposed on day-to-day life for weeks, or even years to come.

It is also important to note here that the Chinese vaccine manufacturers have not released much clinical data to show how their vaccines work on the spread of the virus, NYT reported.

Shao Yiming, an epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention had said on Monday that it needs to fully inoculate 80-85 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity – a reassessment of the nation's earlier official estimate of 70 percent.

What Beijing Has Said

Meanwhile, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it does not see a link between the recent surges and their vaccines.

As per NYT, the ministry cited the World Health Organization (WHO) data to say that inoculation rates in some countries had not been sufficient to prevent outbreaks, and that countries needed to continue taking all health precautions.

The ministry stated, "Relevant reports and data also show that many countries that use Chinese-made vaccines have expressed that they are safe and reliable, and have played a good role in their epidemic prevention efforts."

Further, despite the outbreaks, officials from Seychelles and Mongolia have defended Sinopharm, claiming its role in preventing severe COVID infections.

According to the head researcher of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies at Mongolia’s Ministry of Health Batbayar Ochirbat, Mongolia has done the right thing by employing the Chinese-made jab, mostly because it has kept the mortality rate low in the country.


What China's Clinical Trials Had Indicated

The Sinopharm vaccine, developed with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, has an efficacy rate of 78.1 percent in UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and Jordan combined.

The Sinovac vaccine, on the other hand, has an efficacy rate of 51 percent.

Additionally, Sinovac’s efficacy at preventing symptomatic infection was 51 percent in Brazil, 67 percent in Chile, 65 percent in Indonesia, and 84 percent in Turkey. The differences in results may be due to different variants circulating in each country at the time and differences in the populations included in the studies.

As with all the COVID-19 vaccines for which data are available, efficacy against the more severe outcomes is greater. Efficacy against hospitalisation for Sinovac in Chile, Brazil and Turkey was 85 percent, 100 percent and 100 percent, respectively.

(With inputs from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and ABC News)

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