In Mongolia, hospitals are overwhelmed. In the tiny archipelago of Seychelles, more than 100 new Covid-19 cases are being reported each day. And in Chile, a nationwide lockdown was lifted this week — but the country is still reporting thousands of daily cases.
What links these countries is that they have each fully inoculated more than 50% of their populations, largely with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines. And that’s raised questions over the vaccines’ efficacy.
If the Chinese vaccines aren’t working, that’s a huge problem — and not just from a health perspective. Beijing has staked its reputation on providing other countries with vaccines.
As Western nations stockpiled supplies for their own populations, China sent vaccines overseas — in June, the foreign ministry announced the country had delivered more than 350 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to more than 80 countries. That mission highlighted inadequate Western efforts at a time when tensions between China and many major democracies were running high.
Questions over the efficacy of China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines now jeopardize that soft-power win for Beijing, although China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has dismissed such criticism as a “bias-motivated … smear.”
Experts say that while these Chinese vaccines might not be as effective as some, they aren’t a failure. No vaccine gives 100% protection against Covid-19, so breakthrough cases are to be expected.
The crucial metric for measuring success, they say, is preventing deaths and hospitalizations, not aiming for zero Covid-19.
Why are vaccinated people getting sick?
China has two vaccines authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO), Sinopharm and Sinovac. Both use inactivated viruses to prompt an immune response in the patient, a tried and tested vaccine method.
Pfizer and Moderna, by contrast, use a newer technology called mRNA, which teaches the body’s cells how to make a piece of the coronavirus spike protein that triggers an immune response.