Chinese CDC Director: I Have Taken Three Different Coronavirus Vaccines

A nurse holds a vial of the CoronaVac vaccine -developed by China's Sinovac laboratory- against the COVID-19 disease, in Bogota on March 9, 2021. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP) (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)
JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images

Gao Fu, the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Chinese state media this week he has received three different Chinese state-made coronavirus vaccines since May 2020, China’s state-run Global Times reported Wednesday.

“I had been vaccinated with domestically produced vaccines as early as May last year, and I was [among] the first group of people who tried the new thing,” Gao told China’s Global People magazine in an interview published July 18.

“I have received three shots so far. The types of vaccines and manufacturers are different, but I don’t feel any discomfort. The reason for this is because I have confidence in the country’s vaccines,” Gao said.

“There is no mention in the interview of the exact time when Gao received the three shots or which brands of vaccines were used,” the Global Times reported on July 21 after reviewing Gao’s interview with Global People, which is an offshoot of People’s Daily, an official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) newspaper.

Gao said he had received a Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate in late July 2020 but did not reveal the brand or type.

“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” the Chinese health leader reportedly told an online webinar hosted by Alibaba Health on July 26, 2020. “I hope it will work.”

“Everybody has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” Gao added. “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?”

China’s government has approved seven Chinese state-made coronavirus vaccine candidates for use in the country over the past year and a half. Vaccine candidates known as Sinopharm, Sinovac-CoronaVac, Convidecia, Sinopharm-WIBP, Zifivax, Minhai, and the “Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences COVID-19 vaccine” have all gained full approval within China for use in its state-run coronavirus immunization campaign. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has granted two of the seven vaccine candidates, Sinopharm and Sinovac-CoronaVac, emergency use authorization.

China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and the affiliated Beijing Institute of Biological Products developed Sinopharm. It is an inactivated vaccine candidate, meaning it works using “killed viral particles to expose the body’s immune system to the virus without risking a serious disease response,” according to the BBC.

Sinovac-CoronaVac, developed by the Chinese state-owned biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, is also an inactive virus vaccine candidate. Other inactivated virus vaccine candidates produced by China include Sinopharm-WIBP, developed by Sinopharm and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products; Minhai, developed by the Chinese companies Minhai Biotechnology Co. and Kangtai Biological Products Co. Ltd.; and the “Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences COVID-19 vaccine,” developed by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Convidecia is a viral vector vaccine candidate; this means it uses “a modified version of a different virus (the vector) to deliver important instructions to our cells,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences developed Convidecia.

Zifivax, produced by the Chinese state-run company Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical, is a subunit vaccine candidate. A subunit vaccine uses only the “very specific parts (the subunits) of a virus or bacterium that the immune system needs to recognize,” according to the W.H.O. “It doesn’t contain the whole microbe or use a safe virus as a vector. The subunits may be proteins or sugars.”

Chinese CDC director Gao “led the development” of Zifivax, according to a statement issued by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology on March 15. Chinese health officials approved Zifivax for emergency use in China in early March without releasing clinical data demonstrating its safety or efficacy rate.

“There is no publicly available information in peer-reviewed scientific journals about the clinical trial data showing efficacy or safety,” the Associated Press noted of Zifivax on March 16. A spokesperson for Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical told reporters “data could not be shared at this time but that the company was providing the information to health authorities.”

Gao told a health conference in April the Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidates available at the time were largely ineffective and suggested “mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness,” the Associated Press reported.

“We will solve the issue that current vaccines don’t have very high protection rates,” Gao said during a presentation of Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines and immunization strategies at a health conference in southwestern China’s Chengdu city on April 10.

“It’s now under consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” the Chinese CDC director revealed.

Gao backtracked on his comments about the ineffectiveness of Chinese-produced coronavirus vaccine candidates the next day, telling the Global Times “it was a complete misunderstanding.”

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