Official: Chinese vaccines' effectiveness low
BEIJING (AP) - In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country's top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them up to give them a boost.
Chinese vaccines "do not have very high protection rates," said director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control Gao Fu at a conference Saturday in southwestern Chengdu.
Beijing has distributed hundreds of millions of doses in other countries while trying to cast doubt on the effectiveness of Western vaccines.
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"We are currently formally considering whether we should use different vaccines from different technical fields in the immunization process," said Gao.
The effectiveness rate of a coronavirus vaccine from Sinovac, a Chinese developer, in preventing symptomatic infections has been found by researchers in Brazil to be only 50.4%. In comparison, the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer was found to be 97% effective.
Beijing has not yet approved foreign vaccines for use in China, where the coronavirus emerged in late 2019.
Gao did not provide details on possible changes in strategy, but did mention mRNA, a previously experimental technique used by Western vaccine developers while China's drug makers used traditional technology.
"Everyone should consider the benefits mRNA vaccines can bring to humankind," said Gao. "We have to follow it carefully and not ignore it just because we already have several types of vaccines."
Gao previously raised questions about the safety of mRNA vaccines. He was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that he could not rule out negative side effects in December as they were being used in healthy people for the first time.
Chinese state media and popular health and science blogs have also questioned the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine, which uses mRNA.
As of April 2, around 34 million people had received both of the doses required for Chinese vaccines, and around 65 million had received one, according to Gao.
Experts say mixing vaccines or sequential immunization could increase rates of effectiveness. Trials around the world are about mixing vaccines or giving a booster shot after a long period of time. Researchers in the UK are looking into a possible combination of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
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