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China faces credibility crisis on Covid-19 vaccine front

China faces credibility crisis on Covid-19 vaccine front

China has run into a deeper credibility crisis over its Covid-19 vaccine as doubts have now arisen over its biggest overseas trials in Brazil where the process is being questioned due to the concealment of test data.

In sharp contrast to the western countries and India where data about the efficacy and safety of vaccine candidates have been continuously made available, Chinese companies have chosen not to release such data.

Brazilian researchers said last week the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech is more than 50% effective based on trial data, but again withheld full results as the Chinese company had directed them not to release the data. This is the third time that the details of the results have been delayed which has gone to further prove that Chinese vaccine makers lack transparency. Brazil is the first country to complete a late-stage trial of the Chinese vaccine candidate.

A survey by polling institute Datafolha earlier in the month showed that 50 per cent of Brazilians are not willing to take the Sinovac shot, the highest refusal rate among all vaccines. Some 36 per cent of respondents said they would also reject a Russian vaccine, while 23 per cent said they would not go for the US vaccine.

Interestingly, the national immunization plan presented by Brazil’s Health Ministry to the country’s Supreme Court included a total of 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Covax but the Chinese vaccine was not mentioned, according to the O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper.


Various surveys show that people are sceptical over the efficacy and safety of Chinese vaccines. Even in Hong Kong, where China has now established an iron grip on power, controversial leader Carrie Lam reversed her policy on December 23 and allowed residents to choose between Pfizer, Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccines. As reported by Indianarrative.com earlier, the fact that mainland China itself has ordered 100 million doses of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine from Germany also goes to reinforce the point.

Similarly, ASEAN countries which China was trying to bring into the ambit of its vaccine diplomacy have chosen to place orders for US and UK vaccines.

China had carried out a worldwide campaign to reassure governments about its vaccines in order to spread the dragon’s strategic influence. In October, for instance, diplomats representing 50 African countries toured a Sinopharm Group Co. facility amid a publicity blitz in which China promised to deliver vaccines to Africa.

However, the effort appears to have boomeranged as people do not consider the Chinese vaccines reliable. A survey in Kenya reinforced the concern that not all vaccines are considered equal. Africa-centric polling company TIFA Research found that respondents were least likely to take vaccines made in China, preferring vaccines from the U.K. or U.S.

The question that has also arisen for democratic governments is that if their citizens do not view all the vaccines they approve as equally effective or safe, they could face trouble from those who believe they are being given an inferior option.

Communist China has been divulging very little about its vaccine development programme to the outside world. Even without final approval, more than 1 million healthcare workers and others who are seen as facing a high risk of infection in China have received experimental vaccines under emergency use permission. But developers have yet to disclose how effective their vaccines are and the possible side effects that they may have.

Health experts also question why China is using experimental vaccines on such a vast scale now that the coronavirus outbreak is largely under control in the country..