Washington (US): Countries that had relied on the easily available Chinese COVID-19 vaccines to combat the virus are now battling a surge in cases. These include Mongolia, Seychelles, and Bahrain.
Examples from various countries suggest that the Chinese vaccines may not be too effective at curbing the spread of covid-19, particularly the new mutants, reported The New York Times.
In countries like Bahrain, Mongolia, Seychelles, and Chile, nearly 50 to 68 percent of the population is fully inoculated with Chinese vaccines, outpacing the United States, according to Our World in Data, a data-tracking project. These nations have been reported to be among the top 10 countries with the worst COVID-19 outbreaks, as recently as last week.
“If the vaccines are sufficiently good, this pattern should not be there,” said Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. “It is the responsibility of the Chinese to remedy this”, he added.
Amid uncertainty over countries with relatively high vaccination rates reporting new outbreaks, scientists have pointed out to relaxation of restriction and lack of adhering to COVID-19 appropriate behavior.
Israel, which has the second-highest inoculation rate in the world with doses from Pfizer after Seychelles, reports 4.95 fresh COVID-19 cases per million. In Seychelles, which has relied mostly on Sinopharm, the number of new cases is more than 716 cases per million.
NYT has reported that China, as well as more than 90 countries that have relied on the Chinese vaccines, may end up being fully vaccinated but partially protected from the virus, and will have to depend on lockdowns, testing, and curbs on day-to-day life for months or even years to come. Moreover, their economies could suffer too.
Beijing saw its vaccine diplomacy as an opportunity to emerge as a more influential global power. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, pledged to deliver a Chinese vaccine that could be easily stored and transported to millions of people across the globe.
Mongolia, which relied on Chinese aid, commenced a vaccination program and vaccinating 52 percent of its population. However, it registered 2,400 fresh infections on Sunday, a quadrupling from last month.
In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry denied a link between the recent outbreaks and its vaccines. It cited the World Health Organization’s observation that vaccination rates in certain countries had not reached sufficient levels to prevent outbreaks, and that countries needed to continue with the restrictions and curbs to control the spread of the virus, reported the NYT.
“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,” the ministry said.
While the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have efficacy rates of more than 90 percent, China’s Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy rate of 78.1 percent and the Sinovac vaccine has an efficacy rate of 51 percent.
Moreover, the Chinese companies have not released much clinical data to show how their vaccines work at preventing transmission. Data on breakthrough infections has not been made available, either, though a Sinovac study out of Chile showed that the vaccine was less effective than those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna at preventing infection among vaccinated individuals.
William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, said the efficacy rates of Chinese shots could be low enough “to sustain some transmission, as well as create illness of a substantial amount in the highly vaccinated population, even though it keeps people largely out of the hospital”.
Despite the spike in cases, officials in both Seychelles and Mongolia have defended Sinopharm, saying it is effective in preventing severe cases of Covid-19.
Nikolai Petrovsky, a professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Australia, said that with all of the evidence, it can be assumed that the Sinopharm vaccine had minimal effect on curbing transmission. He said that a major risk with Chinese inoculation is that vaccinated people may have few or no symptoms and still spread the virus to others.
In Indonesia, where a new variant is spreading, more than 350 doctors and health care workers recently got infected with Covid-19, despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac, according to the risk mitigation team of the Indonesian Medical Association.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were the first two countries to approve the Sinopharm dose, even before late-stage clinical trial data was released. Since then, there have been extensive reports of vaccinated people getting infected in both countries, NYT reported.
(With ANI Inputs)