Beijing’s ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ Fails to Quell Safety Concerns About China-Made Vaccine

February 16, 2021 Updated: February 24, 2021

As China seeks to bolster its international standing through “vaccine diplomacy,” public confidence in the safety and efficacy of China’s COVID-19 vaccines—both in and outside China—appears mixed.

The Chinese regime is aggressively promoting its COVID-19 vaccines to foreign countries.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping told state leaders at a recent economic summit with central and eastern European countries that Serbia has received 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China.

“If any other central and eastern European countries have a demand for vaccine cooperation, China is willing to proactively consider it,” he said.

On Feb. 16, a shipment of 550,000 doses of vaccines manufactured by Chinese state-run company Sinopharm arrived in Hungary.

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi told his EU counterpart during a Feb. 8 video conference that China and the EU should lead the global effort to combat COVID-19, and that Beijing wished to supply vaccines to developing countries.

Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin (no relation) said during a Feb. 8 press conference that China had agreements with 53 developing countries to export COVID-19 vaccines to them, and has already sent vaccines to 22 of them.

Wang also stated that China would supply 10 million doses to the World Health Organization’s global vaccines program, which provides doses to developing countries in Africa, South America, and Asia.

Epoch Times Photo
A health worker shows a dose of CoronaVac vaccine during a COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Ankara, Turkey, on Jan. 27, 2021. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

International Concerns

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the lack of transparent information about Chinese vaccines during an event held by U.S.-based think tank Atlantic Council earlier this month.

Macron also expressed concerns that the Chinese vaccines wouldn’t be effective in protecting against new variants of COVID-19 that have emerged.

China hasn’t published any data regarding its vaccines’ effectiveness or side effects.

Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung told reporters in Taipei on Feb. 14 that Taiwan didn’t buy China-made COVID-19 vaccines because of incomplete technical information and lack of scientific reports.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro also questioned the efficacy of Chinese vaccines.

China’s Sinovac ran last-stage clinical vaccine trials in Brazil, which was shown to have an efficacy of 50.4 percent—just barely passing the WHO’s 50 percent threshold for regulatory approval. The rate is also lower than U.S.-developed vaccines, with Pfizer-BioNTech’s at 95 percent, and Moderna’s at 94.1 percent.

YouGov, a London-headquartered research data and analytics group, also conducted a survey that asked 19,000 people from 17 countries about their attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines made in 12 countries.

China scored second-to-last, at minus-19 on average. The negative score means people were more likely to feel worried than reassured by a vaccine coming from there.

Epoch Times Photo
A health care worker prepares to administer a dose of China’s Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine to a person at a vaccination center mounted at the Bicentenario Stadium in Santiago, Chile, on Feb. 3, 2021. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images)

Inside China

Chinese citizens also showed low confidence in China-made vaccines.

The Epoch Times previously obtained an internal survey conducted by authorities in Jing’an district of Shanghai, in which 113,000 people were surveyed about their willingness to be vaccinated.

Roughly 21 percent (24,000) said they were willing.

Meanwhile, out of 12,479 people who said they have already received doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, 17 cases of adverse reactions were reported, or roughly three per 10,000.

A doctor surnamed Wang at a Beijing hospital said in a phone interview that he suspected the reason why Chinese authorities haven’t publicized vaccine data is that the vaccines aren’t sufficiently safe for use.

He also noted a peculiarity with Beijing’s issued guidance on vaccine usage: only people between the ages of 18 to 59 can take it. Seniors, the most vulnerable population, aren’t eligible.

Wang hypothesized that this was because younger populations are less likely to develop serious adverse reactions.

If seniors were allowed to take it, “and a large number of them suffered serious adverse reactions, no one in our country would dare to get the vaccine, and the vaccine’s safety will be challenged by the people,” Wang added.