(ATF) China’s state-run media is running a blitz of negative articles about foreign Covid-19 vaccines while touting its indigenously developed products as safer, more reliable and cheaper.
While mostly developing countries have bought or ordered China’s three coronavirus vaccines – made by Sinovac Biotech, Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics – developed nations have been wary of their insufficient data disclosure after clinical trials.
Global Times, an often-shrill English-language newspaper published by the Chinese Communist Party, has published at least 10 reports in the past week critical of vaccines in the West.
Germany and Australia have been criticised in particular, while several drew attention to the deaths of frail and aged patients in Norway inoculated with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Norwegian authorities have said they have not established a causal link between the deaths and vaccination.
Chinese media called for an investigation into an unverified report of 10 post-vaccination deaths in Germany, while Global Times cited Chinese experts saying Australia should consider halting regulatory procedures for the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The paper called on Canberra to buy Chinese-developed vaccines, which are cheaper and easier to transport. It also cited the vaccines' "superior" technology but Chinese products have been criticised over a lack of transparency and comprehensiveness in clinical trials.
Final stage clinical trials showed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 95% effective, with no major safety concerns, while some trials of Sinovac’s CoronaVac in Brazil have seen efficacy rates as low as 50%
Experts such as Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, said the CoronaVac data was “very confusing”, adding: “It is difficult to interpret all this information without seeing the full data sets."
Beijing’s vaccine media blitz is also trying to embrace Taiwan, with a free programme that gives Taiwanese living in China priority for vaccination. "This shows the mainland's warmth and affection towards us," a Taiwanese teacher was quoted as saying.
The vaccination campaign comes as China reported a rise in new Covid-19 cases in Beijing and several northern provinces. A total of 144 new cases were reported on January 20, the National Health Commission said.
The outbreaks and containment measures are likely to essentially cancel the lunar new year holidays in February, which are one of China’s most significant celebrations. Tens of millions of residents in Hebei province surrounding the capital, as well as in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces, have been put into lockdown.