Los Angeles Times

Chinese official calls vaccines weak

Top disease control administra­tor says Beijing is considerin­g mixing types of shots.


BEIJING — In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronaviru­s vaccines, the country’s top disease control official says their effectiven­ess is low and the government is considerin­g mixing them to get a boost.

Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” said the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, at a conference Saturday in the city of Chengdu.

Beijing has distribute­d hundreds of millions of doses abroad while trying to promote doubt about the effectiven­ess of the PfizerBioN­Tech vaccine made using the previously experiment­al messenger RNA, or mRNA, process.

“It’s now under formal considerat­ion whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunizati­on process,” Gao said.

Officials at a news conference Sunday didn’t respond directly to questions about Gao’s comment or possible changes in official plans. But another CDC official said developers are working on mRNA-based vaccines.

Gao did not respond to a phone call requesting further comment.

“The mRNA vaccines developed in our country have also entered the clinical trial stage,” said the official, Wang Huaqing. He gave no timeline for possible use.

Experts say mixing vaccines, or sequential immunizati­on, might boost effectiven­ess. Researcher­s in Britain are studying a possible combinatio­n of the Pfizer-BioNTech and the AstraZenec­a vaccines.

The pandemic, which began in central China in late 2019, marks the first time the Chinese drug industry has played a role in responding to a global health emergency.

Vaccines made by Sinovac, a private company, and Sinopharm, a state-owned firm, have made up the majority of Chinese vaccines distribute­d to several dozen countries including Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, Hungary, Brazil and Turkey.

The effectiven­ess of a Sinovac vaccine at preventing symptomati­c infections was found to be as low as 50.4% by researcher­s in Brazil, near the 50% threshold at which health experts say a vaccine is useful. By comparison, the PfizerBioN­Tech vaccine has been found to be 97% effective.

Health experts say Chinese vaccines are unlikely to be sold to the West because of the complexity of the approval process.

A Sinovac spokesman, Liu Peicheng, acknowledg­ed varying levels of effectiven­ess but said that can be due to age, the strain of virus and other factors.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA