“…past scandals have damaged its own citizens’ trust in its vaccines, with manufacturing and supply chain problems casting doubt on whether it can really be a savior…”
With rich countries snapping up supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, some parts of the world may have to rely on Chinese-developed shots to try to conquer the outbreak. The question: Will they work?
There is no outward reason to believe they won’t, but China has a history of vaccine scandals, and its drugmakers have revealed little about their final human trials and the more than 1 million emergency-use inoculations they say have been carried out inside the country already.
Wealthy nations have reserved about 9 billion of the 12 billion mostly Western-developed shots expected to be produced next year, while COVAX, a global effort to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, has fallen short of i ts promised capacity of 2 billion doses.
For those countries that have not yet secured a vaccine, China may be the only solution.
China has six candidates in the last stage of trials and is one of the few nations that can manufacture vaccine on a large scale. Government officials have announced a capacity of 1 billion doses next year, with President Xi Jinping vowing China’s vaccines will be a boon to the world.
The potential use of its vaccine by millions of people in other countries gives China an opportunity both to repair the damage to its reputation from an outbreak that escaped its borders and to show the world it can be a major scientific player.
Yet past scandals have damaged its own citizens’ trust in its vaccines, with manufacturing and supply chain problems casting doubt on whether it can really be a savior.
In some countries, Chinese vaccines are viewed with suspicion. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly sown doubt about the effectiveness of Chinese company Sinovac’s vaccine candidate without citing any evidence, and said Brazilians won’t be used as “guinea pigs.”
China has worked with the Gates Foundation and others to improve manufacturing quality in the past decade. The World Health Organization has prequalified five non-COVID-19 Chinese vaccines, which allows U.N. agencies to buy them for other countries.