China is steadfastly refusing to accept the US offer to distribute American made Covid-19 vaccines in the country even as China is facing a ale surge in the virus infection that is threatening to derail the world's second largest economy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been opposed to approving any foreign vaccines in the last two years. Instead he focused on suppressing the pandemic by enforcing a highly controversial zero-Covid policy.
China's Problems Lie in the Failure of Homegrown Vaccines
There have been charges that China's home-made vaccines have been less effective than most other vaccines made around the world. The World Health Organization said in June after a study that China's Sinopharm vaccine had an efficacy rate of only 79 percent against symptoms and hospitalization related to Covid after the administration of two doses. This compared poorly with the US-made vaccines Moderna and Pfizer which had an efficacy rate of more than 95 percent.
China relied on the suppression route, enforcing draconian lockdowns, quarantines and other harsh restrictions in order to stop the spread of the virus. However, President Xi Jinping attracted rare , open criticism due to this policy that broke the back of the Chinese economy.
Finally, around the Chinese Party Congress in October, Xi abandoned the controversial policy to placate the public. This obviously led to a surge in infections, creating panic around the world.
China does not publish full data on infections and deaths, but reputed international agencies have said probably thousands of people are dying in the country each day. The alarm has spread to other parts of the world, forcing many countries to enforce travel restrictions on Chinese flyers.
Pandemic Yet to Peak in China
Health experts said last week that deaths due to Covid-19 in China is only about to peek by the end of January. According to UK-based health data firm Airfinity, at least 9,000 people are dying in China each day, the Guardian reported. The revised estimate is almost double the number of deaths they flagged a few weeks ago.
The White House said last week it had extended an offer to the Chinese on supplying mRNA vaccines in the country. However, China has not responded positively. Germany also called on China to use the highly effective mRNA vaccines.
The US Offer
"The U.S. is the largest donor of COVID-19 vaccines around the world. We're prepared to continue to support people around the world, including in China, with this and other COVID-related health support," State Department spokesman Ned Price said last week.
"It's important that all countries focus on getting people vaccinated and making testing and treatment easily available .. This is profoundly in the interests of the rest of the world. Our COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and we have provided them to countries around the world, regardless or in spite of any political disagreements," he added.
"It's important not only for the PRC, but also for the continued economic recovery of the international community that the PRC is in a position to get this outbreak under control.
Beijing earlier faced heavy criticism after its indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccines failed to contain the virus spread in the last two years. People vaccinated with the China-manufactured vaccines turned out to be highly ineffective as vaccinated people became more prone to infections.
Despite the failure of its vaccines, China had stubbornly refused to accept foreign vaccines. Beijing's shortcoming on the vaccine front stood out starkly in comparison with the way the Indian government successfully rolled out home-developed vaccines to prevent big surges in virus infection.
According to a World Health Organisation analysis, while the effectiveness of Indian vaccines was 99.30 percent, the Chinese vaccines' effectiveness was less than 80 percent. Another study by the University of Hong Kong estimated that the Chinese vaccines' effectiveness was lower, at just 60 percent.
After being heavily criticized for its huge failure in the Covid vaccination drive, China last approved the use of US-made Pfizer drug to treat its millions of coronavirus patents. According to a CNN report, Beijing will start distributing Pfizer Covid-19 drug Paxlovid as cases flare up following the end of the controversial zero Covid policy.