Sinovac and Sinopharm: Chinese vaccines weak at Omikron

Status: 01/13/2022 10:43 a.m.

Omikron has also arrived in China despite the zero-covid policy. Almost three billion doses of vaccine have been vaccinated in the country, which has a population of around 1.4 billion. However, your own vaccines provide poor protection against Omikron.

By Benjamin Eyssel, ARD-Studio Beijing

In the center of Shanghai, people are being asked in a loop from a mini loudspeaker to pick up the third vaccination. In return, you can take part in a lottery. No country has vaccinated more against Covid-19 than China. By January 7, the People’s Republic had administered almost 2.9 billion vaccine doses, according to the spokesman for the National Health Commission Mi Feng. 1.2 out of 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated.

National vaccine only

In China, only those vaccines that are developed and produced in the People’s Republic are vaccinated – mainly Sinopharm and Sinovac. These are classic dead vaccines, similar to, for example, flu protection preparations.

According to official information, the vaccination rate for people who have been vaccinated twice is between 80 and 90 percent in China. The refresh campaign is now underway. In the country of origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 300 million boosters have been administered in January alone.

Only Chinese vaccines are used in China.


Bad protection against infection

“If the majority of people there are vaccinated twice with a classic dead vaccine or even three times, that doesn’t seem to be of much benefit, then the risk of infection is increased, I would actually estimate that,” says Friedemann Weber, Professor of Virology and the same institute at the University of Giessen in Hessen. “Specifically, that could mean that Omikron has even more free rein there than it does with us.”

International studies have long indicated that Chinese vaccines are less effective in protecting against infection than mRNA or vector vaccines – such as those from BioNTech / Pfizer or AstraZeneca. And with the Omikron variant, the protection against infection decreases even further, according to a recent study by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Chinese vaccines protect against severe disease

Nevertheless, the Chinese vaccines protected against severe disease and the risk of ending up in the hospital. Studies have shown that, according to Abdi Mahamud from the World Health Organization. The WHO assumes that this is also the case with the Omikron variant. Preliminary data from Singapore indicate, however, that the Chinese vaccines are less effective in protecting against fatal outcome than mRNA vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna. The probability of dying from or with Covid is therefore significantly higher if you have been vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines.

Chinese vaccines protect against serious illness. They are less effective in preventing fatal courses.

Image: dpa

According to Professor Friedemann Weber from the University of Giessen there is a relatively simple way to improve the protection of the population in China: “We now know that if people were vaccinated twice with dead vaccine and then received a third mRNA vaccine, that the protection against infections is then very good again. “

In China, however, the state and party leadership prevented the mRNA vaccine from BioNTech / Pfizer from being produced and inoculated in the People’s Republic. Officially, there were problems with the approval. Critics say China gambled in the hope of being able to bring its own mRNA vaccine to market quickly. But even if it came now, it would be too late for the Omikron variant.

Experts question Omikron’s zero Covid strategy

The first locally transmitted Omikron cases are already in China, the authorities have not disclosed the exact figures. As usual, the state and party leadership responded with tough lockdowns, travel bans and mass tests. But international experts doubt that the zero-covid strategy can also be carried out with the highly contagious Omikron variant.

In addition, thousands of people from all over the world will be coming to China for the Winter Olympics in the coming weeks. Most of them are vaccinated, but enter without quarantine. The games are to take place completely isolated from the rest of the country from the beginning of February. However, observers fear that infections will be carried outwards.

Thousands of people will come to China for the Winter Olympics. This could lead to further infections.

Image: dpa

In addition, the big wave of travel for the Chinese New Year is imminent. Hundreds of millions of Chinese then traditionally travel across the country to their families.

The virologist Alexander Kekulé paints a gloomy picture in the MDR Corona podcast. “The fact is that none of the experts here do not see the catastrophe coming. Everyone says there is no sensible way out and we are afraid. It’s not just about the people in China, but also about global economic interdependencies. ” That won’t work forever, says Kekulé. In a certain way, China is driving against the wall. “And that affects us all.”

Omikron in China: How well do the vaccines work?

Benjamin Eyssel, ARD Beijing, January 13th, 2022 8:34 am

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