By: Sarah Yi — Editor-in-Chief
Sinovac, a biotechnology company based in Beijing, China, created the CoronaVac Vaccine. This vaccine has an efficacy rate of about 50% while Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of about 95%. Russia says its Sputnik V vaccine has an efficacy of 91% and the UK’s vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, has an efficacy of 70%.
Despite Sinovac’s vaccine’s lower efficacy rate, CoronaVac has been rolling out around the world. In early January, many countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, China, Turkey, and Chile, began distributing the vaccine. Brazil first announced it had a 78% efficacy rate, however, researchers later revised the numbers claiming it only had a 50% efficacy rate.
Vaccine Researcher and Immunologist with Weill Cornell Medicine John Moore says the lack of openness has made it hard for scientists not involved in the SInovac vaccine trials to know exactly what is going on.
“It’s science by press release. The Chinese are being, well, characteristically less than transparent,” added Moore.
Biostatistician at the University of Florida Natalie Dean says we often think of a vaccine’s efficacy as a single number, but there are many different types of efficacy when you think about it as a spectrum. “As we tend to include milder and milder cases, it’s natural to see a bit of a drop in vaccine efficacy,” said Dean.
An epidemiologist with the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington D.C. Dr. Denise Garrett says it’s much better than nothing. Garrett says the data from Brazil does indicate that the vaccine protects against severe cases of Covid. In addition, it could have a huge impact in places such as Brazil.
Garrett says the downside of a vaccine with just 50% efficacy is that you will have to vaccinate just about the whole population to reach herd immunity.
“To me, the goal of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and keep you out of the morgue,” said director of the Vaccine Education Center and a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory board Dr. Paul Offit.
Both Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the CoronaVac vaccine on January 13 and 14. At that time, the efficacy has been 78% however, since then, it has decreased to 50%, which is much lower.
Due to the discrepancy of the efficacy rates, the international confidence in Chinese-made vaccines has been shaken.
Senior fellow for global health at the US-based Council on Foreign Relations and expert on the Chinese health care system Yanzhong Huang says it could be a potential stumbling block.
“Since many countries are planning to order, or have already ordered Sinovac’s vaccines, it might undermine people’s willingness to take them, because people may question the usefulness of the vaccines,” said Huang.
Chile approves of the Sinovac vaccine with 10 million doses expected on top of Pfizer’s vaccine that has already been distributed. The country has the highest infection rate in Central America. As of now, there have been about 300,000 cases and more than 4,800 deaths.
According to the World Health Organization, rich countries are hogging the Covid vaccine doses and this could lead to a “catastrophic moral failure” if poorer countries are left without doses.
image from from dw.com