China Approves Homegrown COVID-19 Vaccine; Experts Skeptical of Effectiveness

China Approves Homegrown COVID-19 Vaccine; Experts Skeptical of Effectiveness
A nurse shows a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech at the Sao Lucas Hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on Aug. 8, 2020. (Silvio Avila/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chinese regime approved a COVID-19 vaccine developed by state-run firm Sinopharm on the last day of 2020. However, international experts are skeptical about its efficacy and safety, as little clinical data has been released so far.

A Chinese top expert also has expressed reservations about it.

On Dec. 31, 2020, China’s State Council announced at a press conference that Sinopharm’s inactivated vaccine had been granted “conditional approval” by China’s Drug Administration. The vaccine had an efficacy rate of 79.34 percent, according to state media reports.
By comparison, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 percent, and the Moderna vaccine 94.1 percent.

Lack of Supporting Data

Sinopharm didn’t provide any breakdown of its clinical trial data, nor disclose the size of its testing sample.

In an interview with The Epoch Times, former U.S. Army Research Institute virology researcher Dr. Sean Lin said that without transparent data, it’s difficult to ascertain the Sinopharm’s vaccine efficacy rate.

Earlier in 2020, Sinopharm said its vaccine had entered clinical trials. Lin said it’s unlikely the company would have completed its phase III testing—which is done on large groups of people—so quickly.

“This data needs to be collected after a large-scale experiment of tens of thousands of people ... since officials did not publish the data, I have to put a few question marks,” Lin said.

Sinopharm President Wu Yonglin revealed at the Dec. 31 press conference that phase III testing was conducted in foreign countries.

Lin expressed concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy on the Chinese population, given that the trial was conducted on people in foreign countries.

“Because of differences in race and ethnicity, their immune systems may be somewhat different from Chinese people,” he said.

In a Dec. 30 interview with the state-run media CCTV, Zhong Nanshan, a top respiratory expert who often advised the government on COVID-19 prevention measures, expressed his reservations about the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine.

“It is wrong to put all hopes on the vaccine. After the vaccination, no one knows whether they will develop antibodies or not, or whether there are symptoms or not after being injected. As for whether [someone injected with the vaccine] can transmit the disease to others, no one knows either.”

Mass Vaccination Before Approval

Even before the regime issued its official approval, Chinese authorities already had mandated that millions were to be injected with Chinese-made vaccines.
Zeng Yixin, deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, told Chinese media on Dec. 31 that “from June until the end of November, [COVID-19] vaccines had been administered to more than 1.5 million people, including approximately 60,000 Chinese workers who have been sent to work in high-risk areas abroad.”

She claimed that there were no reports of serious infections.

According to media reports, hundreds of Chinese workers who went overseas to work in Serbia, Angola, and Uganda were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 after being injected with Chinese-made vaccines.
Lin said that when there’s no data during the initial stage of development, it’s “irresponsible” for authorities to inoculate millions of people with a vaccine.

Efficacy and Safety Concerns

Previously, The Epoch Times obtained through a Chinese source the results of an internal survey conducted at the Shanghai Yangpu District Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, where 93.4 percent of medical staff there said they wouldn’t want to be injected with a COVID-19 vaccine.

Some researchers have also pointed to the fact that the CCP virus could mutate over time. Xu Nanping, deputy minister of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, responded to a reporter’s question at the Dec. 31 press conference about the efficacy of vaccines in protecting against mutated virus strains.

“Virus mutation is normal and happens every day. ... There is no evidence that the mutations we observe will have a substantial impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine.”

But Lin says the jury is still out.

“Whether this vaccine has any effect on this mutated virus should be determined by corresponding experiments immediately, instead of relying on empty words to say that there is no problem,” he said.

China also has a history of health scandals related to botched vaccines.

In 2018, Chinese pharmaceutical company Changsheng Bio-technology was found to have shipped more than 250,000 doses of a faulty DTaP vaccine (a combination vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus), affecting more than 200,000 children.
And in 2019, a Chinese hospital was found to have vaccinated people against the human papillomavirus (HPV) without obtaining a proper license.
Luo Yan contributed to the report.