The head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, claimed in a conversation this weekend to have personally taken an experimental vaccine against the Chinese coronavirus.
China claims it is advancing rapidly with the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus originating in its territory, currently fueling a pandemic that many scientists believe could have been prevented if the Communist Party had allowed doctors to act against the infectious disease appropriately, instead of imprisoning them for sharing safety tips online. Dictator Xi Jinping referred to the Chinese vaccine as a “global public good” to soon be made available to all countries during the World Health Assembly in May.
Reports in May indicated that the FBI had reason to believe the Communist Party had begun attempting to steal key scientific research on the vaccine from the United States, just as Chinese state-sponsored hackers have been caught attempting to steal other trade and intellectual property secrets from Americans.
Chinese media indicated that scientists were already injecting members of the nation’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the vaccine in June. For a senior member of China’s public health bureaucracy to take it would presumably indicate a higher level of confidence in the vaccine.
Gao was reportedly speaking at an online webinar hosted by Alibaba Health, a wing of the multi-million-dollar corporation owned by Communist Party member Jack Ma.
“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu reportedly said on Sunday. “I hope it will work.”
“Everybody has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” Gao was quoted as saying. “As a scientist, you’ve got to be brave. If even we didn’t do it, how can we persuade the whole world – all the people, the public – to be vaccinated?”
Notably, Gao did not specify which vaccine he took; China is currently developing eight experimental Chinese coronavirus vaccines. He also did not say when he took the vaccine or describe his experience in any way, including if he had any documented side effects. Typically, the development of a vaccine occurs in three phases, the last phase taking years to ensure that it actually works after phase two confirms the vaccine is not harmful. Chinese officials have hinted to significantly curtailing the length of phase three on coronavirus vaccine development, as have pharmaceutical companies all over the world, in response to the severity of the pandemic.
Gao justified the secrecy by claiming he did not want to be accused of doing free advertising for any one pharmaceutical company. The Associated Press noted that Gao had public ties to one vaccine in particular created by the state-owned pharmaceutical company SinoPharm. A study on that vaccine featured Gao as a co-author, though that does not necessarily guarantee that the SinoPharm vaccine is the one Gao took — or that he injected himself with any vaccine at all.
In May, Gao said that he believed Beijing would have a vaccine against the Chinese coronavirus available by the end of 2020.
“The National Immunisation Programme is paying close attention and studying what groups of the population can take the shots, when to take them and what may constitute emergency use of vaccines,” Gao said that month while attending the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), one of the “two sessions” of communist legislation that occur every year. “I believe we will decide based upon the specific situations as we will not be following the usual protocol, otherwise time will be lost. Nor can we [decide] based on our knowledge of coronaviruses because the virus is very unique.”
A month later, the Chinese state-run Global Times propaganda newspaper claimed that Chinese scientists had “developed a universal design” for a vaccine against multiple coronaviruses, including the Chinese coronavirus and previously known iterations like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus. The Global Times named Gao Fu as one of the scientists spearheading the project.
No vaccine exists against any known coronavirus.
That month, reports began surfacing that China was injecting PLA soldiers with an experimental vaccine by another Chinese pharmaceutical company, CanSino Biologics. The vaccine reportedly intended to offer immunity against only the Chinese coronavirus, presumably making it a different vaccine than the one the Global Times promoted. Chinese media claimed this vaccine was based on a similar development as a Chinese Ebola vaccine.
Ebola is not a coronavirus and affects the human body much differently, eliciting no known respiratory effect. The vaccines used in Africa against the 2018 Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Ebola outbreak were manufactured by Merck and Johnson & Johnson, not Chinese companies.
Xi Jinping has gambled much of China’s reputation on the development of a successful vaccine, telling listeners at the online World Health Assembly that China expects to beat the rest of the world’s pharmaceutical companies to develop a safe and functional vaccine.
“COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine development and deployment in China, when available, will be made a global public good,” Xi promised. “This will be China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.”
While Xi appeared to be offering the vaccine to underdeveloped nations for free, Foreign Minister Wang Yi hinted last week at the use of the vaccine to offer economically weaker countries predatory loans to buy the vaccines from China. Wang offered Latin American countries $1 billion in loans to purchase the vaccine, mirroring how China offers loans for infrastructure projects through its “Belt and Road Initiative.”
Under Xi Jinping, China has endured multiple major scandals involving faulty or ineffective vaccines distributed unknowingly to civilians. The most prominent culprit was ChangSheng Biotechnology, which sold nearly a million watered-down vaccines for early childhood immunization throughout the country, resulting in widespread protests where, in at least one occasion, parents violently assaulted Chinese government officers.