Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

So what is China saying about these vaccines and their effectiveness? They keep trumpeting the fact that these vaccines still prevent se...


So what is China saying about these vaccines and their effectiveness?

They keep trumpeting the fact that these vaccines still prevent severe illness and death, which by all accounts, they do. Even in the Seychelles, all the people I interviewed who had Covid after getting the Sinopharm vaccine said that they have had mild symptoms and they were able to recover at home. But experts have told me that because the Chinese vaccines lag behind other Western vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna, in terms of efficacy, that really means that countries that choose to use them will take longer to reach herd immunity.

Why is that?

A couple of experts have done some modeling that shows that basically, if you use a vaccine with 90 percent efficacy against infection, that means you can reach herd immunity if 66 percent of the population is vaccinated. But if you use a lower efficacy vaccine, you need many more people to be vaccinated. So, for example, if the vaccine is 60 percent effective, then the portion of the population that needs to be vaccinated is 100 percent. That’s the real issue with the Chinese vaccines. They’re very useful for countries in preventing severe illness and death, but if you want to reopen the economy quickly, I think they would need to reassess whether using a Chinese vaccine is the best bet for them.

What do developing countries that are receiving the Chinese vaccines think about them?

I think at this point, a lot of them don’t have a choice. At the end of the day, China is a country that says it can make five billion doses a year. And with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the developed nations are still ahead in the queue. [Read our next item about Biden’s announcement to donate 500 million Pfizer doses to 100 countries.]

What do we know about how well they protect against the variants?

Not much, actually. The SinoVac vaccine is 50 percent against the Gamma variant in Brazil. Sinopharm said that a small scale study showed that it could protect against the Beta variant, that first appeared in South Africa, but there was some reduction in the protection. But that was such a small lab study. The experts I’ve spoken to basically think that the weaker vaccines wouldn’t protect as well against the variants as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But we just don’t know yet.

What has the vaccine rollout looked like inside China?

At first it was very slow. In China, like in many Asian countries, a lot of people didn’t feel the need to get vaccines that quickly because the outbreak was largely stamped out. Also, China has a history of vaccine quality scandals, so people were quite skeptical.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
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