China’s coronavirus vaccines may not provide the appropriate protection, with the government exploring options to try and boost efficacy as additional vaccines enter clinical trials.
In a rare admission from a normally tight-lipped government, Chinese health officials admitted that the vaccines “don’t have very high protective rates.”
“It’s now under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process,” China Centers for Disease Control director Gao Fu said at a conference Saturday.
Drug companies Sinopharm and Sinovac were the leading producers for China’s vaccine efforts, with their products exported to 22 countries including Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey.
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Sinopharm initially reported a 79% efficacy rate, but did not release any trial data for the vaccines.
Meanwhile, foreign trials for the Sinovac vaccine have found a wide range of efficacy, with Brazil reporting 50% efficacy for and Turkey reporting over 80% efficacy, the Washington Post reported.
Sinovac spokesperson Liu Peicheng acknowledged varying levels of effectiveness in the company’s vaccine, but claimed a number of factors could result in that variation, including the age of people in a study or the virus strain, among other factors.
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China is therefore exploring a number of options to boost efficacy and better protect its citizens.
One option would see alterations to the dosage regimen, either through increasing the number of doses or increasing the interval between doses to boost effectiveness.
The second option would attempt to mix vaccines, which China currently does not recommend, the South China Morning Post reported.
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Countries are running clinical trials to see if mixing vaccines proves safe and yields any increased protection.
Britain is currently exploring the possibility of mixing its AstraZeneca vaccine with the Pfizer vaccine.
Gao suggested that China explore using mRNA vaccines, which are used by American and European companies but not by China – so far.
Another CDC official said that mRNA vaccines have entered the clinical trial phase, but provided no timeline otherwise.
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Health experts say the Chinese vaccines are unlikely to be sold to the United States or Western Europe due to the complexity of the approval process.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.