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According to China’s National Health Commission (NHC)’s website and cumulative reports from Xinjiang Productions and Construction Corps (XPCC), a total of 1.206714 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered to 31 provinces (including autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) as of June 28, 2021. China’s COVID-19 vaccination rate currently sits between 40 – 50%. Furthermore, it has made a difference in the lives of more than 1.7 million overseas Chinese citizens with both China-produced and foreign vaccines. With the largest base population in the world, the journey to achieve a high level of vaccination rate and build a universal immune barrier remains challenging to China. However, given its current vaccination progress, it is only a matter of time before China eventually achieves its vaccination target.
Today, China has successfully strengthened its vaccination program within the country. Likewise, it has provided countless vaccines to many countries around the world. During the G20 foreign ministers video conference on June 29, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi shared that it has provided more than 450 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 100 countries so far, making China the top vaccine-providing country to the rest of the world.
Yet even in a global pandemic, vaccination is far from being a simple public health and scientific issue, but is increasingly full of geopolitical frictions. When it comes to the topic of the effectiveness of China’s vaccines, there are still unspoken rivalries over vaccines in the international community. According to researchers from ANBOUND, such issues surrounding Chinese vaccines is actually a continuation of the “vaccine war”.
An article “They Relied on Chinese Vaccines. Now They’re Battling Outbreaks” in the New York Times on June 22 claims Mongolia, Bahrain, and the Seychelles are paying the price for using China’s vaccines, and that “instead of freedom from the coronavirus, all three countries are now battling a surge in infections”. Citing “Our World in Data”, the author noted “(in) the Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain and Mongolia, 50 to 68 percent of the populations have been fully inoculated, outpacing the United States”, but “all four ranked among the top 10 countries with the worst Covid outbreaks as recently as last week”. The article emphasized that these four countries mainly use two Chinese vaccines, namely Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.
Referencing findings from the Indonesian Medical Association, the article added that “more than 350 doctors and health care workers recently came down with Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac”. In comparison, approximately 45% of the U.S. population was vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech and Modena vaccines, and cases dropped by 94% over six months. Meanwhile, Israel inoculates with Pfizer and has the second-highest vaccination rate in the world, after the Seychelles. The number of newly confirmed cases per million Israelis is now 4.95. Contrast with this, in the Seychelles, which relied mostly on Sinopharm, there are more than 716 new confirmed cases per million people. Moreover, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at the end of the EU summit that from Chile’s experience, the protection offered by China-made vaccines is insufficient. Clearly, It is clear that the perception of the ineffectiveness of Chinese vaccines is emerging in the West.
Of course, this is not the first time foreign media associated the inefficacy of Chinese vaccines with the COVID-19 situation in Seychelles and other countries. According to ANBOUND’s information tracking research, as early as May 10, the Wall Street Journal reported there were more than 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a single day in the Seychelles, a country with a 100,000 population. Of that number, more than 60% of the population in the country have been vaccinated, including 38,000 people who were inoculated with China’s Sinopharm vaccines. The Wall Street Journal claimed that this has raised “questions about the effectiveness of a Chinese shot (in) the island nation” ,which eventually garnered worldwide attention.
However, Seychellois President Wavel Ramkalawan refuted the claims on the very same day. Ramkalawan said in an interview that most of the patients in the country diagnosed with COVID-19 that time are those who had not been vaccinated or those who had only received one dose of the vaccine, with unvaccinated individuals making up for 75- 80% of the admitted cases. He also stressed that there were no reported COVID-19 deaths for fully vaccinated individuals in the country so far. In the Seychelles, the India-produced AstraZeneca vaccine is provided to citizens over 60 years old, while the Sinopharm vaccine is given to those aged 18 – 60 years old. Clearly, the physical health, intensity of activities, and people within their social circle vary greatly between both groups.
On the day the New York Times published the above article, we noticed that data from the Israeli Ministry of Health showed that an additional 125 new confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country on June 21, which is the highest it has been in the past two months. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stated the country regarded the situation as new outbreak. He added that the Delta variant has spread to Israel, and can infect people who have already been vaccinated. If, in accordance with the logic of the aforementioned media, as there are repeated outbreaks in Israel where most of the population has been vaccinated with Pfizer, does it mean that Pfizer’s vaccine is ineffective as well?
A vaccine’ efficacy is a complex scientific issue. Relying on basic data and simple logic to debate and draw conclusions without properly controlling any variables is a fallacy. In fact, the recurrence of any outbreak can be attributed to multiple factors, such as the mutation of the virus, vaccination coverage rate, mask wearing, the degree of social opening, public health, etc., will all impact the likelihood of it. Cherry picking information will not tell a vaccine’s efficacy; supporting experimental data and scientific arguments will.
It is worth noting that the analysis of the New York Times shows that, based on the efficacy of vaccines, the post-pandemic world may be divided into three groups of countries: rich countries that have acquired Pfizer and Modena, poorer countries that are unable to inoculate most of its citizens, and countries that are fully vaccinated with vaccines largely perceived to be ineffective. China, alongside 90 other countries that were vaccinated with Chinese vaccines may eventually be placed in the third group. Countries that fall within the group may face continuous lockdowns, testing and restriction in daily life, with confined economic activities in the next few months or even years.
At this point, the conclusion of the New York Times report has made it is very clear that only wealthy countries that have inoculated using Pfizer and Modena can truly open its borders to outsiders after the pandemic is over. Meanwhile, countries using Chinese vaccines will remain in a persistent state of lockdown that may last several years. Despite the current reality in China, Europe and the United States, the newspaper has brushed aside any scientific arguments regarding the vaccines’ efficacy, which makes its logic questionable.
ANBOUND’s researchers have already cautioned of an impending “vaccine war” world since last year end, and the world will be divided into two “different worlds”, i.e. those with immunity and those without. That time ANBOUND even suggested that China, which relies on non-pharmaceutical means to control the outbreak successfully, needed to speed up vaccination to avoid being classified as a country falling into the second category country after the pandemic is over. Since then, China has ramped up its vaccination production to more than 40%. However, based on the reports in the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, while waging a battle against COVID-19, China has to deal with another warfare, which is the geopolitical “vaccine war”. Much like AstraZeneca’s vaccine and its issue with thrombosis, determining the vaccines’ efficacy requires scientific researches and analyses. If the efficacy of vaccines is questioned purely on non-scientific biases alone, this will cause countries to raise geopolitical wall in a post-pandemic world, especially when such perceptions are already widespread among the public.
Final analysis conclusion:
The efficacy of vaccines is a scientific issue that needs to be evaluated based on scientific facts. Otherwise, we will see countries raise new geopolitical walls in a post-pandemic world.
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