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Top scientist raises efficacy issues with Chinese Covid-19 vaccine

(ATF) China’s vaccination campaign has taken a double body blow in recent days, with a leading scientist criticising the standards of the country’s homegrown jabs, and a long-awaited study confirming that the Sinovac vaccine has an efficacy rate barely above a coin toss.

Over the weekend, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country’s leading medical policy body, raised the prospect of mixing Chinese-made vaccines, such as those made by Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm.

It was the first time a Chinese government body has acknowledged concerns over the effectiveness of homegrown jabs.

Gao Fu, the CDC director, said on Saturday that the agency was “considering how to solve the problem that the efficacy of existing vaccines is not high”, according to local media. He suggested changing the number and quantity of doses, and the interval between them.

In a related development, Brazilian researchers have published long-awaited data from phase 3 trials of the Sinovac jab.

The data, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, indicated an overall efficacy rate of 50.7%, which rose to 62.3% if there was an interval of more than 21 days between doses.

Sinovac Biotech, the jab’s developer, has been criticised for being slow to release underlying phase 3 trial data – unlike other major Covid-19 vaccines – and instead made public announcements about the shot’s efficacy rate.


Separately, Australia has abandoned its pledge to vaccinate nearly all of its 25 million people against Covid-19 by the end of this year, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The vaccination rollout was thrown into confusion last week when the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation recommended that the AstraZeneca jab be reserved for those over the age of 50, due to rare side effects involving blood clots.

“The government has also not set, nor has any plans to set any new targets for completing first doses,” Morrison wrote on Facebook. “While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japan started vaccinating elderly people against the novel coronavirus on Monday, the second group to be inoculated following healthcare workers, as concern over a “fourth wave” of the pandemic grew.

And in Thailand, after concern about the slow speed of the country’s vaccination effort, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha instructed state agencies and private hospitals to work together in order to procure 10 million more vaccine doses so the country can reach ‘herd immunity’ among its 67 million citizens.

With reporting by Reuters


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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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