CEBU

Nalzaro: Who’s afraid of China-made vaccines?

Saksi

President Rodrigo Duterte said he is willing to be vaccinated by a Covid-19 vaccine either from China or Russia. In Cebu City, Vice Mayor Michael Rama volunteered to be vaccinated first but not if the vaccine came from China. The Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines are made by China while Sputnik is made by Russia.

The Philippine government through vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez has been negotiating with various pharmaceutical manufacturers for our National Vaccination Program. According to the latest update, the US-Germany manufactured vaccine by Pfizer-BioNtech will arrive first in the middle of February before China’s Sinovac vaccine named CoronaVac. Well, whichever comes first at least we are already assured that we can start our vaccination program.

But who’s afraid of China-made vaccines? Is it because China is known for counterfeit and fake products? Forgeries of luxury-brand products are more prevalent in China than in any other country in the world. But for products and materials which may involve lives like construction materials, China products have been known to be durable and have passed international standards.

Did you know that some construction materials used by US engineers are made in China? Branded products made in China are of high quality and pass the company’s quality control. Their medical experts are not foolish to discover and manufacture substandard medicinal products, which may affect the lives of their own people and market these in other countries.

Sinovac Biotech has sold more than 300 million doses to the developing world, filling a gap left by Western countries. In Brazil, officials said a coronavirus vaccine made by a Chinese company was effective, bolstering chances of approval for a second Chinese inoculation that could be rolled out in much of the developing world.

Officials in the State of Sao Paulo, where a prominent medical research institute has been carrying out a study of the vaccine made by Beijing-based Sinovac, said the inoculation had an efficacy rate of 78 percent. However, a latest article in the South China Morning Post said, “Sinovac has been found to be significantly less effective than previous data had suggested, even as the Brazilian research institute that conducted the phase 3 clinical trials urges the public not to focus on the new efficacy rate.”

The vaccine prevented all participants from developing serious and mild complications from the virus calling it a highly effective preventive tool. Sinovac has sold more than 300 million doses mostly to low- and middle-income countries, accounting for about half of the total doses that China says vaccine makers were capable of producing in 2020, based on an analysis of company statements and media reports.

Just recently, Chinese companies signed agreements with at least 15 countries and regions, providing early access to doses. Their vaccines have been rolled out in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain after being approved for emergency use. Many of their early customers were governments that cooperated in the late stage, or Phase 3 trials. Brazil has roughly 10.8 million doses of the vaccine on hand and intends to start producing it locally, while Indonesia and Turkey have both received shipments of Sinovac vaccines. Sinovac has said it is able to produce 600 million doses this year.

Health officials in these countries are not foolish enough to buy Sinovac if they found it less effective. There are several factors considered by our government officials why they chose the China-made vaccine over the other vaccines from Western countries like the US-Germany-made Pfizer-BioNtech and the Moderna vaccines. It’s not only the price but other considerations like the handling and storage of these vaccines. Other vaccines need ultra-freezers that are capable of storing products at minus 70 degrees Celsius. And we don’t have that kind of facility here. Even in the US they have a problem with storage.

Other vaccines, like the one from AstraZeneca, which is manufactured by India-based Serum Institute, can be stored in a simple refrigerator and can be used anytime. So if we will venture into that, those vaccines that need to be stored in a specialized temperature might end up expired. We are just wasting our limited resources, and those vaccines will just be disposed of in the garbage like those expired medicines stored by the Department of Health and local government units.

With this latest development, we can already be assured of our vaccination program. The only problem is to convince people to avail themselves of the vaccination program because of fear. Some still have “post-phobia” of the dengue vaccination because of the Dengvaxia controversy. Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, one of the county’s molecular biologists, urged the public, especially those vaccine skeptics, to stop attacking the vaccines. He said the vaccine confidence of Filipinos continues to plummet because of non-scientific and non-reviewed data circulating around.

Dr. Salvana explained that vaccine efficacy is measured in many ways. Each vaccine will be judged on its ability to prevent infection, clinical disease and severe disease. So why not listen to the experts before we submit ourselves for vaccination?


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