Beijing is playing a 'dangerous game' around Covid-19 vaccines

International

Wuhan, 1 April China has gone from being the world’s epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic to one of the countries with the lowest reported infection rates one year after the Covid-19 virus was first identified in China’s Wuhan.

Coronavirus started with Beijing withholding information from the public, according to Human Rights Watch, underreporting cases of infection, dismissing the likelihood of person-to-person spread, and downplaying the severity of the infection.

The authorities have currently moved to detain vaccine safety advocates, and censor information critical of the Chinese-made vaccines, according to the report.

The hrw.org, in its report, has said that the Chinese authorities have been spreading disinformation about non-Chinese vaccines.

China’s Covid-19 vaccine funding and its development process have been shrouded in opacity, it said adding, “While other governments, notably the US and the European Commission, have begun publishing redacted copies of the contracts they have signed with vaccine producers, Chinese authorities have yet to take this step.”

Over a dozen Covid-19 vaccines developed in China are in clinical trials, the report said adding “with about half of them in phase 3 trials, which are large-scale studies to assess the vaccine’s level of protection.”

The hrw.org report said only one Chinese vaccine has received emergency approval from what WHO identifies as a “stringent” regulatory authority.

According to the report, none of the vaccines have received full regulatory approval or released phase 3 trial data.

The Chinese authorities began to vaccinate people in “high risk” professions such as the medical professionals and border workers as early as July 2020.

Likewise, several state-owned companies required their overseas-based Chinese workers to be vaccinated before they returned to their jobs abroad, the report said.

Some workers had even expressed concerns over the lack of transparency and dearth of safety as well as efficacy data before the vaccine’s official approval, according to the report.

The report further stated that while there have not been publicly known cases of recipients of the Chinese Covid-19 vaccines suffering severe side effects, the authorities censored online posts raising questions about the safety of the vaccines.

It also stated that a person whose article on WeChat raising such questions was removed lamented on Twitter: “When writing it, I was doing my best to be deliberately vague…in order to pass the censors… As the vaccines began to be rolled out in recent days, [I] clearly felt the atmosphere becoming much more tense.”

According to the news report, as wealthy nations have reserved most of the Western-developed vaccine doses, China has offered to fill the demand from developing countries desperate to halt the pandemic.

Two major biotech companies, the state-owned Sinopharm and privately owned Sinovac, have sold abroad or received international orders for more than 800 million doses, the news report added.

However, Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged nations to “come together against global challenges” and “international cooperation on Covid vaccines,” however, Beijing has mounted an aggressive disinformation campaign inside and outside of the country to sow doubt about Western-made coronavirus vaccines, the hrw.org said.

Several major Chinese media outlets such as the Xinhua, China Daily and People’s Daily, churned out articles about the deaths of elderly Pfizer vaccine recipients in Norway and accused Western media of downplaying the deaths, even though multiple outlets have reported on them and Norwegian authorities explained that there was no evidence linking the deaths to the vaccine, the report said.

According to the report, Beijing is playing a dangerous game. “To scare people off from taking vaccines – by not disclosing data on the safety of its new vaccines and discrediting others’ vaccines – is only going to prolong the pandemic. This is something that no one, least of all Chinese authorities, should want,” the report added.

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