DHARAMSALA 20 April: China has been told to look for alternatives to its two homegrown Covid-19 vaccines as it battles the worst Covid-19 outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
“Scientists are urging China to look for alternatives to its two homegrown Covid-19 vaccines to tackle its Omicron outbreak, amid mounting concerns about the jabs’ efficacy against the variant,” the Financial Times reported.
According to the report, what has aggravated the worst Covid-19 surge in China are Beijing’s sluggish take-up of booster doses and the waning efficacy of homegrown jabs.
“The vaccines were at 60 per cent efficacy, it was never rosy, but Omicron really exposed the problem,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute has said.
Though data was “limited” on the Chinese vaccines, he has stated that “the vaccines, which are made using a dead part of the virus, were less effective than their rivals and declined further with time.”
Besides, the Chinese authorities have conceded this week that only 57 per cent of people over 60 have been fully vaccinated with three jabs, the report added.
Citing a study from the University of Hong Kong published last month, the report added that “people over 60 who had received two doses of Sinovac’s vaccine CoronaVac were three times more likely to die from Covid compared with people who received two doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.”
The paper, yet to be peer-reviewed, has concluded that “a third dose of either vaccine provided high levels of protection against severe disease.”
Ben Cowling, an epidemiologist at HKU has said in the report that the third shots for Chinese vaccines should be seen as simply completing a minimum course rather than a “booster”.
Confirming the inefficacy of the Chinese vaccines, a Yale University study has even suggested that “people who received two inactivated doses may need two mRNA boosters.”
“So people who have had two Sinovac vaccines would need two booster doses of mRNA just to bring the neutralising titres [numbers of antibodies] to a similar level of three mRNA vaccines,” Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale and an author of the paper has said.
For now, China is facing its toughest Covid-19 challenge since the virus emerged in China’s central city of Wuhan in 2019. With nearly two dozen Chinese cities reportedly in lockdown mode under Xi Jinping’s Zero-Covid policy, media reports estimate that as many as 375 million people are under strict lockdown across Chinese cities.