China Hobbles Efforts Toward COVID-19 Virus Vaccine

Regime is withholding, skewing crucial data about the coronavirus
February 14, 2020 Updated: February 16, 2020
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Commentary

As the threat of an emerging pandemic grows, medical experts are already predicting that COVID-19, the new coronavirus, will likely reach every nation on the planet.

They also warn that the longer the outbreak continues, the higher the risk 1there is for a global pandemic that could threaten millions of lives.

A Mutating Threat to Humanity

In other words, the longer the virus goes unchecked, the more difficult it will become to find a vaccine. The reasoning is simple but devastating.

Like a flu virus, COVID-19 has the ability to rapidly change its form—this is known as the mutation rate. As mutations occur, new strains of the COVID-19 virus can develop over time.

Those new strains would be both familiar with the human immune system and yet foreign to the human immune system at the same time. The process is deadly logical. As the virus infects victims, it gathers more information about the human immune system. The virus then mutates so that it becomes more adaptable to the immune systems of new victims.

That adaptation process makes the virus even more deadly. In fact, more than 20 strains of the virus have been found in infected people.

That’s why and how COVID-19 can potentially become even more contagious and with higher fatality rates than the current strain. Plus, with an asymptomatic incubation period of up to 24 days, the potential for a greater and deadlier pandemic is all but assured.

Time, therefore, is not on our side.

Politicizing the Outbreak

The world may be facing a global threat that should neither be ignored nor politicized. And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is making the search for a cure to the COVID-19 virus more difficult than it already is or needs to be.

For one, even though the disease has become an outbreak in a matter of weeks, Beijing is still withholding critical information from its own people as well as the rest of the world.

As Jennifer Nuzzo from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security recently pointed out, “As countries are trying to develop their own control strategies, they are looking for evidence of whether the situation in China is getting worse or better.”

However, with Beijing manipulating the numbers of both infected and fatalities, no one can say for certain if the disease has slowed, as the Chinese authorities contend. It may simply be one more false effort to save face.

Needless to say, it is vitally important that all information about the virus itself as well as the status of the outbreak be made available to the proper and most capable medical authorities around the world. But information gaps persist. Researchers are still unclear on the contagion level—known as the R0 rate—of COVID-19 due to incomplete information.

Data gaps in information from Chinese authorities also make it difficult to get an accurate model of the outbreak, which would help predict the spread of the disease going forward.

Getting Almost the Best Help?

On a positive note, Beijing has finally invited scientists and doctors from the World Health Organization (WHO) to China to help solve this very urgent situation. And yet, for more than a month, China refused the offer by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help with the outbreak.

Why exclude one of the most knowledgeable resources on the planet? Does the CCP fear that it will appear incompetent? Too late. That fact spread quicker than the virus.

The CCP’s political pride is not only a main cause of the spread of the disease, but also a luxury that neither China nor the rest of the world can afford.

More Unknowns

As it currently stands, much of the information from the CCP leadership and health authorities is incomplete, confusing, or contradictory.

For example, Chinese authorities have lately suggested that countries resume air travel to China and claimed that they are getting ahead of the outbreak.

But given the deteriorating situation on the ground, and Beijing’s dissembling, how could anyone know or believe anything that the CCP says, to be true?

For instance, it isn’t known whether COVID-19 is a seasonal virus, more active in winter than in warmer months, or not. If it is, that would give the scientific community more time. But no one yet knows.

Another theory postulates that men are more susceptible to the virus. Is that because more men in China smoke? That’s one possibility, but it remains unverified.

Or more importantly, is the virus a product of bioengineering, or did it come from wild animals kept in the open market in Wuhan? If the former, a vaccine may already exist or partially exist within that same Chinese laboratory. In either case, correct information would be helpful.

But there doesn’t seem to be any definitive answers to these and many other questions coming from Beijing. As former CDC chief Tom Frieden noted recently, “We still don’t have very basic information.”

If we are going to get ahead of this disease, if we want to minimize the potential suffering and tragedy caused by the expanding COVID-19 outbreak, the one thing that must not be quarantined is information. Everything about it, from its origins to its mutations to studying survivors’ immune systems, must be made available.

Fortunately, there is some good news. Biolabs and pharmaceutical companies around the world are working together, sharing information, to develop a vaccine.

The CCP should follow their example.

James Gorrie is a writer and speaker based in Southern California. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.