How Media Manipulates. (China Vaccine Edition)

I heard recently about the low efficacy rates of the vaccines made in China. In the sources where I heard this news, it was framed in a way to suggest that it was obvious that Chinese made vaccines would be substandard.

Image description

As someone who wanted to verify the veracity of the statements, it was really hard to find any objective reporting of the vaccine technologies China used. Querying for “Chinese vaccine” returns articles talking about the low efficacy rate of Chinese vaccines as if they’re all the same. Querying for the individual vaccines by name only returned news articles about the vaccines, often criticizing them. None of the top search results returned links to objective articles about the vaccine itself.

China based pharmaceutical companies have produced 5 different vaccines so far:

  • 3 of them are inactivated virus vaccines (produced by Sinovac and Sinpharm)
  • 1 is an adenovirus vaccine (CanSino, which is exactly like the Johnson & Johnson or Astrazeneca vaccines)
  • 1 is an adjuvanted protein subunit COVID-19 vaccine (Anhui Zhifei Longcom)

It was reported that: “The effectiveness of the vaccines [made in China] range from just over 50% to 79%” .

We cannot compare the 3 inactivated virus because there are no other non-China manufactured vaccine using the same technology.

As for the adjuvanted protein subunit vaccine, the closest comparison would be Novavax, which is also an antigen based vaccine, though the production method might be different. Novavax is currently in Phase 3 Trials in some locations and the efficacy so far seems to be good with it ranging between 86.3% to 96.4% depending on the strain. Efficacy is still to be determined for the Anhui Zhifei Longcom vaccine

So, we can only really look at CanSino since there are two competing vaccines using the same technology that has efficacy numbers:

So what can be concluded from this info? That all adenovirus vaccines fall within the general range of efficacy. This has nothing to do with it being a “Chinese” vaccine.

The concerns about efficacy should be framed with respect to the different technologies being used instead. The low efficacy numbers suggests that inactivated virus type vaccines might not work well against covid-19.

Shun the pharmaceutical companies in China that are not releasing data about their vaccines, but don’t insinuate this is a generalized quality issue with Chinese manufactured goods.

And shun the media that furthers this narrative, cluttering our search results with unhelpful, uninformative articles.