Sinovac and Sinopharm: weak Chinese vaccines at Omikron

Status: 01/13/2022 10:43 a.m.

Omikron has also arrived in China despite the zero covid policy. Nearly three billion doses of the vaccine have been vaccinated in the country, which has a population of around 1.4 billion. However, your own vaccines offer poor protection against Omikron.

By Benjamin Eyssel, ARD-Studio Beijing

In central Shanghai, people are repeatedly invited from a mini speaker to pick up the third vaccine. In return, you can participate in a lottery. No country has vaccinated against Covid-19 more than China. As of January 7, the People’s Republic has administered nearly 2.9 billion doses of vaccines, according to National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng. 1.2 billion out of 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated.

National vaccine only

In China, only vaccines developed and produced in the People’s Republic are vaccinated – mainly Sinopharm and Sinovac. These are classic dead vaccines, similar, for example, to influenza preparations.

According to official information, the vaccination rate of people vaccinated twice is between 80 and 90 percent in China. The refresh campaign is now underway. In the country of origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 300 million reminders were administered in January alone.

Only Chinese vaccines are used in China.


Poor protection against infections

“If the majority of people there are vaccinated twice with a classic death vaccine or three times – it doesn’t seem to be very beneficial, then the risk of infection is increased, I would actually estimate that,” says Friedemann Weber , professor of virology and director of the same institute at the University of Giessen in Hesse. “Specifically, it could mean that Omikron has even more leeway there than with us.”

International studies have long indicated that Chinese vaccines are less effective at protecting against infection than mRNA or vector vaccines – such as those from BioNTech / Pfizer or AstraZeneca. And with the Omikron variant, the protection against infection decreases even more, according to a recent study from the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Chinese vaccines protect against serious diseases

Nevertheless, Chinese vaccines protected against serious illness and the risk of ending up in hospital. Studies have shown that, according to Abdi Mahamud of the World Health Organization. WHO assumes this is also the case with the Omikron variant. Preliminary data from Singapore, however, indicates that Chinese vaccines are less effective in protecting against a fatal outcome than mRNA vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna. The probability of dying from or with Covid is therefore significantly higher if you have been vaccinated with Chinese vaccines.

Chinese vaccines protect against serious disease, but not as well as mRNA vaccines.

Image: dpa

According to Professor Friedemann Weber of the University of Giessen, there is a relatively simple way to improve the protection of the population in China: “We now know that if people were vaccinated twice with a dead vaccine and then received a third mRNA vaccine, that the protection against infections is then again very good.

In China, however, state and party leadership has prevented the production and inoculation of BioNTech / Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine in the People’s Republic. Officially there were issues with the approval. Critics say China has gambled in hopes of being able to quickly bring its own mRNA vaccine to market. But even if it happened now, it would be too late for the Omikron variant.

Experts question Omikron’s zero Covid strategy

The first locally transmitted Omikron cases are already in China, authorities have not disclosed the exact figures. As usual, the state and party leadership responded with strict closures, travel bans and mass testing. But international experts doubt that the zero covid strategy can also be implemented with the highly contagious variant Omikron.

In addition, thousands of people from all over the world will come to China for the Winter Olympics in the coming weeks. Most of them are vaccinated, but enter without quarantine. The games are to take place completely isolated from the rest of the country from the beginning of February. However, observers fear the infections could spread.

Thousands of people will come to China for the Winter Olympics. This could lead to other infections.

Image: dpa

In addition, the great wave of travel for the Chinese New Year is imminent. Hundreds of millions of Chinese then traditionally travel across the country to join their families.

Virologist Alexander Kekulé paints a grim picture on the MDR Corona podcast. “The point is, none of the experts here sees the catastrophe coming. Everyone says there is no sane way out and we are afraid. It is not only about the Chinese people, but also global economic interdependencies. “It won’t work forever,” says Kekulé. In a way, China is up against the wall. “And it affects us all.”

Omikron in China: How do vaccines work?

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, 13.1.2022 08:34

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