China is officially considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines, said the head of China’s Gao Fu disease control agency. In his opinion, this is a way to increase the effectiveness of preparations that “do not have a very high efficiency index”. Some media interpreted the official’s words as admitting that Chinese preparations were less effective than Western preparations in preventing the disease. Fu himself later explained that he had been misunderstood. According to the BBC, the official’s words are “a rare admission to weakness” coming from Beijing.
Gao Fu, head of China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out at a press conference in Chengdu that, in his opinion, administering doses of various vaccines is one way to improve the effectiveness of preparations that “do not have a very high effectiveness rate.”
A Chinese official admitted that the authorities are considering “administering vaccines with different technical lines” as a result. According to Fu, taking steps to ‘optimize’ the vaccination process, including, but not limited to, changing the number of doses administered and the waiting time between injections, was ‘critical’ to addressing the effectiveness problems.
Reuters noted that Fu had not clearly indicated whether, speaking of vaccines with lower efficacy, he meant vaccines produced in China. However, according to the BBC, Fu’s words mean “a rare admission of weakness” by a high-ranking official in Beijing.
In an interview on Sunday with the English-language, government-controlled Chinese daily Global Times, Gao Fu explained his earlier words, which were interpreted by some public and media as an official’s admission of the low effectiveness of Chinese vaccines. He described these reports as a “complete misunderstanding”.
As the BBC points out, most of the Chinese media remained silent about Fu’s first comment, but at the same time, critical comments about him appeared on the huge social network Weibo, and users suggested that it would be better if the official “stopped talking”.
The effectiveness of Chinese vaccines
The Reuters Agency notes that Chinese vaccines lag behind preparations approved for use by Western regulatory agencies when it comes to effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.
In China, four vaccines developed by domestic producers have been approved for general use. Conditional authorization has been granted for the use of the fifth formulation. It is to be used only in emergencies and on a smaller scale. According to officials, the Chinese pharmacological industry will be able to produce a total of three billion doses of vaccines by the end of the year.
Reuters recalled the results of the third phase clinical trial on the Sinovac vaccine (CoronaVac), which was carried out in Brazil. They show that when two doses of the preparation are administered less than three weeks apart, the effectiveness in preventing the disease is 49.1 percent.
This means that in this group, the vaccine did not exceed the 50% efficacy threshold required by the World Health Organization. The effectiveness rate increased to 62.3 percent in the subgroup administered the drug at intervals of three weeks and beyond. The average test score showed an overall effectiveness of just over 50 percent.
According to the BBC, the CoronaVac vaccine from Sinovac has so far only been approved on the Chinese market without restrictions. At the same time, however, Beijing sent millions of its doses to many countries in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Ukraine and Turkey also signed large contracts for them.
In the case of preparations produced by the state-owned Sinopharm concern, no detailed data on their effectiveness have been disclosed. The partial data provided by the Reuters agency shows that the company’s two vaccines are 79.4 percent and 72.5 percent effective, respectively.
Western vaccines such as those approved for use include in the European Union, Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca are actually 100% effective in protecting against the severe course of COVID-19 and very highly effective in protecting against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Main photo source: WEN TAN / EPA / PAP