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Opinion

Philippines, take note: resurgence seen in early users of China vaccines

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Filipino health officials need to find out why. COVID-19 infections are resurging in countries that were first to roll out China-made vaccines.

Was it due to alleged poor efficacy, or a slew of other causes? Since the Philippines is largely dependent on Sinovac and Sinopharm, vaccine authorities can learn from overseas experiences.

Coronavirus transmissions spiked in Chile and Uruguay in May, weeks after mass inoculations with Sinovac, the science and technology news site Arstecnica.com reported Saturday, June 5.

Cases in Chile suddenly multiplied 21 percent, although 53 percent of the target population has been fully immunized with two Sinovac doses. Chile is third only to Israel and the United Kingdom in number of vaccinees per 100 citizens, according to CNBC News. Eighty percent of the new cases have not received both jabs, its health ministry assessed.

In Uruguay the infection uptick came after 43.5 percent of citizens already were injected, Reuters noted. Like Chile, Uruguay reopened shops, restaurants and resorts upon reaching inoculation thresholds.

Similar pandemic jumps were reported in Bahrain, Dubai and Seychelles. The three were among the early adopters of Sinopharm jabs, Arstecnica added.

Bahrain, first to order from China, has administered at least one dose on 58 percent of its population. Reliant as well on Sinopharm, Dubai has covered 52 percent.

With the rise in infections, both Gulf states are offering vulnerable sectors that have received two Sinopharm jabs to get a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech. Bahrain is doing so openly, Dubai quietly, Arstecnica said.

“Seychelles, which has vaccinated a higher proportion of its population than any other country, is struggling to contain a new surge in infections, raising questions about the effectiveness of the Chinese shot the island nation has administered to the majority of its vaccinated residents,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote May 10. Seychelles has far fewer people, but the outbreak per capita is worse than in India.

The findings emerged as China belatedly ramps up its own inoculation program to 20 million persons a day. It has immunized 780 million, 400 million in May alone.

Unpublished studies in Serbia suggest that some vaccinees do not produce enough antibodies to repel the pandemic virus three months after, Arstecnica said. The University of Belgrade shared the findings with WSJ.

The head of China’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, George Gao, seemed to confirm the problem. “The efficacy of the existing vaccines is not high,” he told a conference on the country’s inoculants last April. The following month Beijing began planning for third jabs, Arstecnica added.

The World Health Organization granted Sinovac emergency use listing only last week, and Sinopharm in May.

Sinovac has 51 percent efficacy, barely passing the WHO’s minimum of 50 percent. Sinopharm’s 78 percent rating in clinical trials was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. But the tests were mostly on healthy young males.

None of the 35 states with stringent regulatory agencies has endorsed Sinovac or Sinopharm. Both vaccines make use of inactivated coronavirus to trigger antibodies.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration approved Sinovac earlier for emergency use. Not recommended for frequently exposed health care frontliners, the elderly and sickly, and youths below age 18, FDA specified. Malacañang overruled it, however, when only Sinovac vials trickled in to Manila for those desperate sectors.

The Presidential Security Group and certain politicians received unauthorized Sinopharm jabs as early as last September-October 2020. The FDA belatedly gave it compassionate use permit.

President Rody Duterte hemmed and hawed about getting a jab until his preferred additional Sinopharm doses arrived last May. Without citing studies, he claims that Chinese vaccines are far superior than six Western makes.

The Philippines has received 9.3 million doses as of weekend, two-thirds from Sinovac. Last Monday inoculations commenced on essential government and private workers.

Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, Cebu and Davao, suffered spikes in April and May. Same with major cities in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam, all also early users of Sinovac. But their immunization percentages are too low to attribute to vaccine efficacy. More likely causes were safety complacency and large religious gatherings.

Taiwan, too, is experiencing resurgence. Beijing criticized Japan and America for “interference” in donating 2.5 million vials to its supposed renegade province.

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“Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” is available as e-book and paperback. Get a free copy of “Chapter 1: Beijing’s Bullying and Duplicity.” Simply subscribe to my newsletter at https://jariusbondoc.com/#subscribe. Book orders also accepted there.

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