Is the success of Chinese vaccines declining in Asia?

Indonesian students responded on July 1, 2021 when they received the first dose of the Chinese Sinovac Biotech vaccine (COVID-19) for coronavirus disease in high school due to a surge in cases in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Indonesia mainly uses Sinovac vaccine in Covid immune program

Throughout Asia, Chinese vaccines play an important role in people’s immunity to Covid-19, with millions receiving either Sinovac or Sinopharm jabs.

However, in recent weeks there has been growing concern about their effectiveness. Currently, some Asian countries that have made the Chinese vaccine a major plan for their immunization program have announced the use of other jabs.

The move raises questions not only about the reliability of Chinese vaccines, but also about vaccine diplomatic attempts in Asia.

What is happening in Thailand and Indonesia?

Last week, Thailand announced a change in vaccine policy-instead of receiving two Sinovac shots, residents will receive a mixture of Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

Healthcare workers who are already vaccinated against Sinovac will also receive another jab as a booster shot.

Indonesia announced a similar move last week, saying it is giving Sinovac-immunized health workers a Moderna booster shot.

The decision followed reports that hundreds of fully vaccinated health workers captured Covid, some of whom (2 in Thailand and 30 in Indonesia) died.

Both countries, whose vaccination programs have been delayed, are fighting new outbreaks. Thailand is currently reporting a record number of infections and deaths, but in Indonesia, the new epicenter of Covid in Asia, hospitals are overcrowded and oxygen deficient.

Ketut Nomer, a 59-year-old patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is in a temporary tent outside the emergency ward of a government hospital while his 28-year-old son Gede Zico is taking care of him. I'm resting.  Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, on June 25, 2021.

Indonesia is currently on the verge of a new Covid outbreak

The two countries said they were switching to strengthen protection, and Thai officials cited a local study showing that vaccine mixing could boost immunity.

Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno also recently told the BBC that the Sinovac vaccine is “very effective.”

However, by choosing to switch vaccines, the Thai and Indonesian governments were essentially “said to be concerned about vaccine failure,” said the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network director. One Dale Fisher said.

However, he also warned that there was not enough information on the infection and death of health workers and urged authorities to carry out a “thorough investigation.”

Sinovac hasn’t commented yet.

Since then, Malaysia has announced that it will switch to Pfizer’s vaccine after discontinuing the supply of Sinovac.

However, other countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia continue to use Chinese vaccines.

Are Chinese vaccines effective?

Clinical trials worldwide have shown that Sinovac and Sinopharm inactivated virus vaccines are 50% to 79% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid infections.

However, they are still very effective in preventing Covid’s hospitalization and death-studies show that Sinovac jabs are 100% effective in Brazil and 96-98% effective among Indonesian health care workers. It was a target.

Professor Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist at the University of Hong Kong, states that the fact that fully vaccinated people still have many breakthrough infections may be due to several factors.

One is that Chinese vaccines, like many other vaccines, can become less effective over time. In a Thai study published this week, Fully vaccinated with Sinovac but antibodies are reduced by half every 40 days..

Second, the clinical trial dataset is small compared to the actual infectious disease. Especially in Indonesia, the number of daily infections has skyrocketed to tens of thousands.

It could also be due to the more infectious Delta variant detected in 60% of recent cases in Indonesia and 26% of cases in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand.

There are no public data on the efficacy of Chinese vaccines against Covid variants.However, preliminary studies have shown that inactivated virus vaccines such as Sinopharm and Sinovac 20% less protection against delta variants More than against the original virus, according to Professor Cowling.

No vaccine is completely effective in preventing Covid infections, and Chinese vaccines are “not 100% effective, but still save many lives,” he said. Experts emphasize that breakthrough infections do not mean that the vaccine is meaningless, as immunization helps prevent people from becoming very ill with Covid-19.

On May 24, 2021, healthcare professionals will prepare a vaccinated syringe for China's Synobac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the Central Vaccination Center at Bang Sue Grand Station in Bangkok, Thailand.

No public data available on how effective Chinese vaccines are against delta mutants

In addition, there are no reports of breakthrough infections in China, where more than 630 million people have been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine at least once. It is unknown how many of them are fully vaccinated.

However, the virus has been reported to have low daily infection rates and is believed to be controlled in China, which is moving rapidly to eradicate outbreaks in the region.

How does this affect China’s vaccine diplomacy?

As the region with the highest number of shots in China, Asia is an important cornerstone of China’s vaccine diplomatic strategy.

Over 30 Asian countries buy jabs and receive donated shots. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest purchasers of the Sinovac vaccine, which has ordered 125 million doses.

China’s enthusiasm for selling and donating vaccines “changes the story from the fact that the infection was first detected in Wuhan, making it a science powerhouse,” said Ian Chung, a Chinese expert at the National University of Singapore. Efforts to show. ” ..

Many Asian countries, especially the poor, welcomed China’s jabs, as rich countries dominate many of the early orders for other vaccines.

“Validity data at the time wasn’t very good, but the standard idea was that” some protection is better than no protection, “” said Dr. Chung.

For example, Thailand initially relied on a local company owned by the King to produce most of the vaccine, but due to late delivery, the government has other sources after the outbreak of the new Covid this year. I had to look for.

In addition to the locally manufactured AstraZeneca vaccine, it was one of the first companies to offer it by a Chinese company, so for now it has largely relied on Sinovac jabs.

On June 25, 2021, Thai health volunteers are standing in front of a Chinese-made China National Pharmaceutical vaccine campaign banner during a mass vaccination drive for people with disabilities and disadvantages in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand is also receiving some China National Pharmaceutical

The decision by Thailand and Indonesia to switch to other vaccines could “destroy the image of success and disrupt the vaccine efficacy bubble in China, effectively questioning China’s technological capabilities. There is, “said Dr. Chung.

The Chinese government has not yet commented, but in the past it has claimed that the vaccine is effective.

How are the people reacting?

Both Thai and Indonesian governments are facing growing criticism that vaccination is slow and the situation in Covid is deteriorating.

Anger is even more fueled in Thailand Leaked Ministry of Health documents Officials who opposed giving Pfizer booster shots to health care workers “acknowledge that Sinovac cannot provide protection,” he said.

“There is a lot of anger among the Thai people, and they say,’Why don’t you care about health care workers?’,’This is not a factor.’Many people say government communication and Sinovac. I am deeply concerned about my dependence on, “said Dr. Arm Tungnirun, director of the Chinese Research Center at Chulalongkorn University.

“Currently, more and more people are rejecting Sinovac and I believe it will not work. There is a great deal of distrust in the Thai government and the vaccine issue has become very political.”

Hundreds of protesters marched in Bangkok on Sunday, calling for resignation over the prime minister’s response to the crisis and demanding the introduction of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Modana.

The latest reports of breakthrough infectious diseases can fuel general skepticism about vaccines.Religious social media influencers and conspiracy theorists are already in Indonesia Spread the anti-vaccine message linked to anti-Chinese sentiment.

Experts are calling for stricter infection control and greater effort to combat false information online.

Professor Cowling said: [the Chinese vaccines] But we can’t expect many of them.

“We need to be aware of breakthrough infections and be prepared to deal with them, as they can undermine confidence in vaccines.”

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