Europe should consider Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines as a “trustworthy alternative” to other shots, the Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper People’s Daily suggested on Thursday, days after Beijing admitted its domestically produced coronavirus vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates.”
“Facing criticism for their slow inoculation campaigns, European countries are earnestly trying to fill the vaccine gap. At this crucial moment, Chinese vaccines can be a trustworthy alternative as they are not only available, but their safety has also been approved in several European Union (EU) member states,” the state-run People’s Daily wrote on April 15.
The recommendation came just five days after the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Gao Fu, vowed to “solve the issue that current vaccines don’t have very high protection rates.”
“It’s now under consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” Gao said during a presentation on Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines and immunization strategies at a health conference in southwestern China’s Chengdu city on April 10.
Gao said he was referring to effectiveness rates for “vaccines in the world, not particularly for China,” when probed about his remarks at the conference by the Associated Press (AP) on April 11.
“He did not respond to further questions about which vaccines he was referring to,” the AP reported.
China’s Health Ministry has so far approved five Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidates for use in the country. Three of the vaccines were produced by either Sinovac or Sinopharm, both Chinese state-run biopharmaceutical companies. One vaccine was manufactured by the Chinese vaccine company CanSino, and another was developed by China’s Anhui Zhifei Longcom biopharmaceutical company in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a team led by Gao Fu at the Chinese CDC.
“The effectiveness of the vaccines range from just over 50 percent to 79 percent, based on what the companies have said,” the Associated Press reported on April 11. The developers of the Anhui Zhifei Longcom vaccine candidate – the most recently approved of the five shots – have yet to release late-stage clinical data on its safety or efficacy rate.
Chinese health officials approved the Anhui Zhifei Longcom vaccine candidate for emergency use in early March despite a lack of “publicly available information in peer-reviewed scientific journals about the clinical trial data showing efficacy or safety.”
The vaccine candidate’s efficacy data “cannot be shared publicly at this time,” a spokesperson for Anhui Zhifei Longcom said in a statement on March 15, adding that the company was providing “available information to relevant health authorities.”
The E.U. has struggled to distribute Chinese coronavirus vaccines to its member states due to logistical issues and short supplies. The sluggish campaign was further hampered by many European countries’ decision to stop using AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine on March 15 after E.U. and British health regulators established a possible link between the shot and rare but fatal blood clots. The vaccine was developed by the British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University.
“In Britain or Eastern Europe, a big part of the campaigns are based on AstraZeneca,” Yves Van Laethem, a leading epidemiologist and Belgium’s coronavirus task force spokesman told reporters this week.
“According to a YouGov poll published last month, 61 percent of the French, 55 percent of Germans, and 52 percent of Spaniards consider the AstraZeneca vaccine ‘unsafe’,” the New York Times reported on April 14.
E.U. and British regulators paused the distribution of the U.S.-developed Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine on April 14 also citing concerns over its possible link to rare but fatal blood clots.