By Liang Yong
It was towards the end of 2019 that some of the first cases of the novel coronavirus started surfacing in Wuhan, China, the same disease which later gripped the world and made 2020 a year that would mostly be remembered for the pandemic.
Although there isn’t much control over where a particular disease decides to strike but speculations are being made over how the Chinese authorities reacted to it. China intentionally deceived the world in the beginning phases of Wuhan’s COVID-19 flare-up, smothered any kind of evidence, and was lousy in its dealings of the pandemic, a report by the CNN stated. China also refused to acknowledge the true number of cases and officially released stats which were less than half of the actual number of cases in the nation.
Amongst other things, it also failed to contain the virus within its boundaries and was callous enough to let it spread to the rest of the world. Whether this was a valid mistake, or a deliberate strategy aimed mostly at making personal gains can only be suspected, given China’s track record.
That being said, most nations in the world experienced large number of people being afflicted by the virus and there was a global call for a speedy solution; a vaccine. Many nations entered the race of developing a vaccine with a higher success rate, how could China possibly let go of the chance of becoming the trailblazer in responding to this global crisis?
Ever since the news of vaccines hit the public, it has proved to be a ray of hope. But considering the fact that there are not many contenders, it is unsurprising that many nations will either be unable to afford the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations or the demand will greatly surpass the supply rates. Many will have no option other than to turn towards the China-developed Sinovac, despite the trust deficit.
The question however is, will the Chinese vaccine work at all?
History indicates how untrustworthy China has been in the past owing to all the vaccine scandals. Not much has been revealed by China’s drug makers regarding the human trials of the coronavirus vaccines in the initial stages, even after China stated that it had administered more than one million emergency inoculations.
For the countries that haven’t yet developed or secured a vaccine, China might be the last hope.
China has six entries in the last phase of its trials and is one of the only few countries that has the capacity to provide vaccine doses to a huge base of consumers. Government authorities have reported a capacity of one billion doses of vaccine one year from now, with President Xi Jinping addressing that China’s immunisations will be an aid to the world.
The possibility of China’s vaccine being used by a huge number of individuals in different nations gives it a chance both to fix the harm to its reputation from the outbreak and how it had failed to contain the virus within, and to show the world that it tends to be a significant player in trying to control the pandemic.
However, its history of vaccine scandals has resulted in the loss of trust among its very own citizens, the demand and supply chain has also created too many doubts on whether the vaccine is at all what it promised and whether China has the potential to deliver it at a mass scale.
Some countries have even become quite vocal in their reservations against any Chinese vaccine. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has expressed his concerns regarding the quality of the vaccines and went the length of stating that Brazilians would not be treated as “guinea pigs” before the trials for Sinovac began.
All the Chinese contenders for the vaccine have been unresponsive when asked about the efficacy rate. The Chinese citizens who can afford it are opting out of taking the China made vaccine and are going for the more transparent western manufacturers.
Amidst the growing distrust, what remains to be seen is how far the Chinese Vaccines stride.
*Liang Yong is a policy analyst based in Beijing, China