Mongolia promised its people a “Covid-free summer”. Bahrain said there would be a “return to normal life”. The small island nation of Seychelles aimed to jump start its economy.
All three put their faith, at least partly, in easily accessible Chinese-made vaccines that would allow them to launch ambitious vaccination programs at a time when much of the world was going without.
But instead of getting rid of the corona virus, now the three countries are facing a huge jump in the case of infection.
China began its vaccine diplomacy campaign last year by pledging to provide a shot that would be safe and effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19. Less certain at the time was how successful this and other vaccines would be in preventing transmission.
Now, examples from several countries show that Chinese vaccines may not be very effective in stopping the spread of the virus, especially the newer versions. The experiences of those countries highlight a harsh reality facing a post-pandemic world: The degree of recovery may depend on what vaccines governments give their people.
In the Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain and Mongolia, 50 to 68 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the data tracking project, Our World in Data, which has overtaken the United States. All four are ranked among the top 10 countries with the worst Covid outbreaks as of last week, according to data from The New York Times. And all four are mostly using shots made by two Chinese vaccine makers, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.
“If the vaccines are good enough, we should not see this pattern,” said Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. “The Chinese have a responsibility to fix this.”
Scientists don’t know for sure why some countries with relatively high vaccination rates are experiencing new outbreaks. Variants, social controls that ease very quickly and reckless behavior are only likely after a two-shot first regimen. But successful transitions can have lasting consequences.
In the United States, about 45 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, with doses mostly made by Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna. There has been a 94 per cent drop in cases in six months.
Israel provided shots from Pfizer and has the second highest vaccination rate in the world after Seychelles. The number of new daily confirmed Covid-19 cases per million in Israel is now around 4.95.
In the Seychelles, which relied mostly on sinofarm, the number exceeds 716 cases per million.
Such inequalities could create a world in which three types of countries emerge from the pandemic – the wealthy nations that used their resources to secure Pfizer-BioNtech and Modern Shots, the poor nations that make up the majority of citizens. are far from being vaccinated, and then those who are fully vaccinated but only partially protected.
China, as well as the more than 90 nations that have received the Chinese shot, could end up in the third group, struggling with rolling lockdowns, testing and limits on day-to-day life for months or years to come. Economies may remain stagnant. And as more citizens question the efficacy of sugar supplements, illiterate people may find it even more difficult to line up for shots.
A month after receiving his second dose of Sinoform, Otgonjargal Baatar fell ill and tested positive for Covid-19. The 31-year-old miner spent nine days in a hospital in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. Mr Otgonjargal said he is now questioning the usefulness of the shot. “People believed that if we were vaccinated, the summer would be free from Covid,” he said. “Now it turns out that’s not true.”
Beijing saw its vaccine diplomacy as an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic as a more influential global power. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, pledged to deliver a Chinese shot that can be easily stored and delivered to millions of people around the world. He called it a “global public good.”
Mongolia was a beneficiary, jumping at the chance to score millions of sinopharm shots. The small country quickly launched a vaccination program and eased restrictions. It has now vaccinated 52 percent of its population. But on Sunday, it recorded 2,400 new infections, a quadrupling from a month earlier.
June 22, 2021 at 12:27 pm ET
In a statement, China’s foreign ministry said it did not see a link between recent outbreaks and its vaccines. It cited the World Health Organization as saying that vaccination rates in some countries had not reached levels high enough to prevent future outbreaks, and that those countries needed to maintain controls.
“Relevant reports and data also show that many countries using China-made vaccines have expressed that they are safe and reliable, and have played a good role in epidemic prevention efforts,” the ministry said. China has also emphasized that its vaccines target serious disease rather than transmission.
No vaccine completely prevents transmission and people can still get sick after being vaccinated, but the relatively low efficacy rate of Chinese shots has been identified as a possible cause of recent outbreaks.
Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna have an efficacy rate of over 90 percent. Several other vaccines, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have an efficacy rate of around 70 percent. The Sinopharm vaccine, developed with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, has an efficacy rate of 78.1 percent; The efficacy rate of the Sinovac vaccine is 51 percent.
Chinese companies have not released much clinical data to show how their vaccines work in preventing transmission. Shao Yiming, an epidemiologist at the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday that China needs to fully vaccinate 80 to 85 percent of its population, revising the official estimate of 70 percent from the previous one.
Data on breakthrough infections have also not been provided, although the Chilean Sinovac study showed that the vaccine was less effective Compared with Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna in preventing infection among vaccinated individuals.
A representative for Sinofarm hung up when reached for comment. Sinovac did not respond to a request for comment.
William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, said the efficacy rates of sugar shots may be “low enough to sustain some transmission, as well as to cause enough disease in a highly vaccinated population” even though it largely keeps people away from the hospital.”
Despite the spike in cases, officials in both the Seychelles and Mongolia have defended Sinopharm, saying it is effective in preventing severe cases of the disease.
Butbayar Ochirbat, lead researcher in the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies at Mongolia’s health ministry, said Mongolia made the right decision to go with the Chinese-made shot, as it has helped keep the death rate down in the country. According to the health ministry, data from Mongolia showed that the Sinoform vaccine was actually more protective than the doses developed by AstraZeneca and Sputnik, a Russian vaccine.
The reason for the boom in Mongolia, Mr Butbayar said, was that the country reopened too quickly, and many believed they were safe after just one dose. “I guess you could say that the Mongolians celebrated very early,” he said. “My advice is that the festivities should start after full vaccination, so it is a lesson learned. There was a lot of confidence.”
Some health officials and scientists are less convinced.
Professor Nikolai Petrovsky, from the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Australia, said that with all the evidence, it would be reasonable to assume that the sinoform vaccine has minimal effect on curbing transmission. He said a major risk with Chinese vaccination is that vaccinated people may have few or no symptoms and still spread the virus to others.
“I think that complexity is lost on most decision makers around the world.”
In Indonesia, where a new variant is spreading, according to the Indonesian Medical Association’s risk mitigation team, despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac, more than 350 doctors and health care workers recently came down with COVID-19. Returns. The association said that 61 doctors died between February and June 7 across the country. Ten of them had taken the vaccine made in China.
The numbers were enough to make Singapore’s director of medical services, Kenneth Mak, question the use of Sinovac. “It’s not a problem with Pfizer,” Mr. Mack said. a news conference on Friday. “It’s really a problem associated with the Sinovac vaccine.”
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were the first two countries to approve the Sinoform shot, even before the release of late-stage clinical trial data. Since then, there have been widespread reports of vaccinated people falling ill in both countries. The Bahrain government’s media office said in a statement that the state’s vaccine roll out “has been efficient and successful to date.”
Nevertheless, last month officials in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates announced they would offer a third booster shot. Alternatives: Pfizer or greater Sinopharma.
Khaliyun Biartsogt, Andrea Cannapello, Ben Hubbard, Asma al-Omari and mukita suharatono Contributed reporting. Elsie Cheno and Claire Fu contributed to the research.