In an unprecedented move, the Director of the China Centers for Disease Control Gao Fu admitted that Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates.” The health official was speaking at a conference on Saturday in Chengdu, a city in southwestern China.
Gao also that the country was formally considering whether they should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the process of immunization.
On Sunday, at a news conference, officials did not respond when asked about Gao’s comment or whether there has been an official change in plans. A CDC official mentioned that developers were working on mRNA vaccines.
The official, Wang Huaqing said that that the mRNA vaccines developed in China had “entered the clinical trial stage” but no timeline for use was mentioned by him.
Earlier, China had distributed several millions of Sinovac vaccines to Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia and more. Beijing was looking to undermine the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine while promoting the effectiveness of its indigenous Sinovac vaccine
However, Sinovac has efficiency as low as 50.4 percent in preventing symptomatic infections according to researchers in Brazil. The threshold at which a vaccine is considered useful by health experts is 50 percent. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy rate of 97 percent.
A Sinovac spokesman Liu Peicheng said that varying levels of effectiveness have been seen but he attributed this to different factors such as age of people in a study, the virus strain and other reasons.
Earlier Gao, Chinese media and health and science blogs in China had questioned both the safety and the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine. Now, Beijing is conducting research and clinical trials, using the same type of vaccine – mRNA that Pfizer and Moderna used to develop their efficient vaccines.
Experts say mixing vaccines might increase effectiveness. British researchers are experimenting on a combination of the traditional AstraZeneca vaccine and the new mRNA Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to check whether this vaccine is more effective.