#AceHealthReport – July.21: A few months later the pandemic had engulfed Mexico and thousands of people were dying every week. But Coquilteel and many small, indigenous towns in the state of Chiapas were left relatively unscathed. This has been a blessing but it also presents a problem.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says cases have risen with men, women and children in this #pandemic and now Mexican villages refusing to vaccinate citizens with almost 30% of Mexicans have received one vaccine against #COVID19 so far but in the state of Chiapas the take-up rate is less than half of that. In Coquilteel, and many remote villages in the state, it’s likely to be closer to 2%. Last week Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador remarked on the low vaccination rate in Chiapas and said the government needed to do more according to BBC Latin News
By Stephanie Hegarty Population correspondent
In November Pascuala Vázquez Aguilar had a strange dream about her village Coquilteel, nestled among the trees in the mountains of southern Mexico.
A plague had come to the village and everyone ran to the forest. They hid in a hut under a tall canopy of oak trees.
“The plague couldn’t reach us there,” Pascuala says. “That’s what I saw in my dream.”
Pascuala is a community health leader for 364 communities in the area and she has been vaccinated. She travels in and out of the village and worries about bringing Covid back to her family and friends who, like most of their neighbours are not vaccinated.
They’re influenced by lies and rumours swirling around on WhatsApp. Pascuala has seen messages saying the vaccine will kill people after two years, that it’s a government plot to reduce the population or that it’s a sign of the devil that curses anyone who receives it.
AFPVaccination uptake in Chiapas state has been relatively low compared to other areas
This kind of disinformation is everywhere but in villages like Coquilteel, it can be particularly potent. “People don’t trust the government. They don’t see the government doing anything good, they just see a lot of corruption,” Pascuala says.
The community in Chilón are predominantly indigenous descendants of the Mayan civilisation. In Chiapas there are over 12 official traditional languages spoken. The first language in Coquilteel is Tzeltal and few people speak much Spanish.
The indigenous community in this part of Mexico has a history of resistance to the central authorities, culminating in the Zapatista uprising in 1994. “The government doesn’t consult people on how they want to be helped or how to govern,” says Pascuala. “The majority don’t believe that Covid exists.”
This isn’t just a problem in Mexico or in Latin America, it’s happening all over the world. In northern Nigeria in the early 2000s and later in parts of Pakistan, distrust of the authorities led to boycotts of the polio vaccine. Some of these communities believed a lie that the vaccine was sent by the US as part of the “War on Terror”, to cause infertility and reduce their Muslim population.
“There is fertile ground for rumours and misinformation where there’s already a lack of trust in authorities and maybe even in science,” says Lisa Menning, a social scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO) who researches barriers to vaccine uptake. “There are information gaps and perhaps poorly designed communications campaigns that have targeted these communities historically.”
Gerardo GonzálezPascuala, a vaccinated health worker, worries her unvaccinated friends and family might catch Covid
Nicolasa Guzmán García spends much of her day in Coquilteel tending to her chickens and growing fresh vegetable for her family. She does believe Covid is real but doesn’t feel the need to be vaccinated. “I don’t leave my home very much. I don’t travel to the city, I’m focused on looking after my animals,” she says.
She also believes that their traditional lifestyle protects the community – they eat healthy, fresh food and get a lot of fresh air and exercise. And like a lot of indigenous communities across Latin America, the Tzeltal practise a mix of Catholicism and their ancient spiritual religion.
“I can’t say if this vaccine is bad or good because I don’t know how it was made, who made it and what’s in it,” says Nicolasa. “But I prepare my traditional medicine myself so I have more confidence in it.”
She uses a mixture of cured tobacco, home-made alcohol and garlic to help with breathing problems, and tinctures made from Mexican marigold flowers or water of the rue plant for fever.
Medical doctor Gerardo González Figueroa has been treating indigenous communities in Chiapas for 15 years and says trust in herbal medicine is not just out of tradition but necessity – because medical facilities are often far away.
He believes there are some protective benefits from traditional diet, lifestyle and healing practices but he is extremely worried about low vaccination rates.
“I don’t think the efforts of the Mexican government have been strong enough in getting all of society involved,” he says. “These institutions have been acting in a paternalistic manner. It’s ‘go and get your vaccines’.”
AFPThe indigenous community in this part of Mexico has a history of resistance to the government
The federal government has said its vaccination programme is a success, with mortality declining by 80% amidst the third wave of Covid sweeping across Mexico’s more densely populated urban areas.
Pascuala believes the authorities gave up too easily when they saw that people were rejecting getting vaccinated in the village.
“It’s a false binary to think of supply and demand as separate things,” says Lisa Menning of the WHO. She points to the US, where polling in March showed communities of colour had also been hesitant to get vaccinated until authorities put a major effort into making vaccination accessible. Vaccination rates in these communities are now much higher.
“Having easy, convenient and really affordable access to good services, where there’s a health worker who’s really well-trained and able to respond to any concerns and responds in a very caring and kind respectful way – that is what makes the difference.”
It can’t be a top-down approach, she says. “What works best is listening to communities, partnering with them, working with them.”
Coquilteel is one of millions of small, rural communities around the world where this is sorely lacking. For now, all Pascuala can do is keep trying to convince people to get vaccinated and she’s focusing her efforts on those who leave the village, like truck drivers. But until everyone is vaccinated, she can only put her trust in other powers.
“Thanks to God we live in a community where there are still trees, and where the air is still clean,” she says. “I think in some way, Mother Earth is protecting us.”
#AceNewsReport – July.20: Monday marked the long-anticipated reopening of England’s bars and clubs, and the dropping of most of the coronavirus restrictions that had been in place since last year. However, the government will soon make vaccination mandatory to enter these establishments, Zahawi announced on Monday.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says Booster shots coming, vaccines will be MANDATORY for nightclubs, UK govt announces today in Parliament …as cases like this rise and daily cases soar …..
“Vaccination holds the key for doing the things we love,” he told Parliament. “We plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”
By September, Zahawi stated, every adult in the UK will have been given the opportunity to get fully vaccinated.
Zahawi had a different opinion on so-called ‘vaccine passports’ only a few months ago. Back in February he called such passes “discriminatory,” and told the BBC: “That’s not how we do things. We do them by consent.”
In a BBC appearance shortly after Zahawi’s speech, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the vaccination-only policy official, repeating the minister’s words verbatim.
“Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough”UK PM Boris Johnson says that after all over-18s have had the chance to get both Covid jabs, full vaccination will be required for entry into “nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather”https://t.co/EZJkjkCXF1pic.twitter.com/q0UpIP3Hmr— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) July 19, 2021
With the efficacy of vaccines against the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus being questioned in some countries, Zahawi also told lawmakers that the government is drawing up plans to administer vaccine booster shots. Trials for such shots are already underway, and before his resignation last month, then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that a nationwide programme of booster jabs will likely be rolled out in autumn.
For the moment, children will be exempt from vaccination unless they suffer from pre-existing conditions, Zahawi said on Monday.
“We will be offering even more vulnerable people the protection that a vaccine brings and we will all be safer as a result,” he said, after the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation released new guidance stating that only children with severe neurodisabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression, and profound and multiple learning disabilities will be given the jab.
#AceHealthReport – July.19: Over 100,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the government’s latest measures to push people to get vaccinated and curb rising infections by the delta variant of the #coronavirus…
#CoronavirusNewsDesk says PARIS: Thousands of people marched around France to protest mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and #COVID19 passes that will be required to enter restaurants and other venues acording to AP
ABC News By CONSTANTIN GOUVY Associated Press: 17 July 2021, 21:47
CDC director: COVID-19 spreading among unvaccinated
In Paris, separate protest marches by the far-right and the far-left wound through different parts of the city. Demonstrations were also held in Strasbourg in the east, Lille in the north, Montpellier in the south and elsewhere.
Thousands of people answered calls to take to the streets by Florian Philippot, a fringe far-right politician and former right hand of Marine Le Pen who announced earlier this month that he would run in the 2022 presidential election. Gathered a stone’s throw away from the Louvre Museum, protesters chanted “Macron, clear off!”, “Freedom,” and banged metal spoons on saucepans.
While Philippot has organized small but regular protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, Saturday’s demonstration drew a larger and more diverse crowd of people broadly disaffected with politics: yellow vest activists angry over perceived economic injustice, far-right supporters, medical staff and royalists.
They denounced the government’s decision on Monday to make vaccinescompulsory for all health care workers, and to require a “health pass” proving people are fully vaccinated, have recently tested negative or recovered from the virus in order to access restaurants and other public venues. President Emmanuel Macron’s government is presenting a draft law Monday to enshrine the measures.
“I will never get vaccinated,” Bruno Auquier, a 53-year-old town councilor who lives on the outskirts of Paris. “People need to wake up,” he said, questioning the safety of the vaccine.
While France already requires several vaccinations to enter public school, Auquier pledged to take his two children out of school if the coronavirus vaccine became mandatory. “These new measures are the last straw,” Auquier said.
The government warned of the continued spread of the delta variant, which authorities fear could again put pressure on hospitals if not enough people are vaccinated against the virus. The pandemic has cost France more than 111,000 lives and deeply damaged the economy.
During a visit to a pop-up vaccination center in the southwest, Prime Minister Jean Castex exhorted the French to stick together in order to overcome the crisis.
“There is only one solution: vaccination,” he said, stressing it “protects us, and will make us freer.”
At the Paris protest, a manual worker in his sixties expressed bitterness about jobs in his sector sent offshore. A 24-year-old royalist said he was there to demand “the return of God and the King.”
Lucien, a 28-year-old retail shop manager, said he wasn’t anti-vaccine, but thought that everyone should be able to do as they please with their own body. “The government is going too far,” he said. His 26-year-old friend Elise said, “I am vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, and polio. But the COVID vaccine is just too experimental.”
While a majority of French health care workers have had at least one vaccine dose, some are resisting the government’s decision to make vaccination compulsory for all staff in medical facilities.
At Saturday’s Paris protest, a 39-year-old green party supporter and hospital laboratory worker said she might resort to buying a fake vaccination certificate to avoid losing her job. A health care worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty called it “act of violence” to force people to get vaccinated.
In Montpellier, more than 1,000 people marched to the train station, chanting “Liberty!” and carrying signs reading “Our kids aren’t Guinea pigs.” Security officials closed the main entrance to travelers and a dozen police officers took posts in front.
The Interior Ministry said 114,000 people took part in protests nationwide.
Overnight on Friday, vandals ransacked a vaccination center in the southeast. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin asked prefects and police chiefs to reinforce security for elected officials, after several complained they had received threats in recent days over the latest anti-COVID measures.
Vaccine hesitancy is considered widespread in France, though appears to have faded somewhat as 36 million French people have gotten coronavirus vaccine doses in recent months. Millions more have gotten injected or signed up for vaccinations since Monday’s announcement.
French health care workers have until Sept. 15 to get vaccinated. The requirement for COVID passes for all restaurants, bars, hospitals, shopping malls, trains, planes and other venues is being introduced in stages starting Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the French government announced tightened border controls starting Sunday, but also said it would allow in travelers from anywhere in the world who have been fully vaccinated.
That now includes people who received AstraZeneca’s Indian-manufactured vaccine. The move came after a global outcry over the fact that the European Union’s COVID-19 certificate only recognizes AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Europe.
Elaine Ganley in Montpellier and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.
#AceHealthReport – June.04: Israel, where 83% expressed faith in vaccines, came next. Japan reported the lowest levels of trust at 47%.
#CoronavirusNewsDesk – UK ‘most trusting’ country on #COVID19 vaccines with only 47% trusting Japan according to Imperial College London team, who have tracked people’s attitudes to the vaccinations since November, say overall trust has climbed.
8 hours ago
But they say there is still work to be done to boost confidence in vaccines:
New entry to Japan by foreign nationals from the majority of countries, including the UK, is currently not permitted. Foreign residents of Japan returning to Japan may re-enter, unless they have visited these countries within the past 14 days
All those entering Japan currently need to provide written evidence of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within the 72 hours before your flight departure time. Arrivals from most countries will further be required to undergo a COVID-19 test on arrival and to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival at a designated location (such as a hotel or your own home) even if the test result is negative. If you are coming from the UK, from 7 June you will also be required to spend the first 6 days of that in self-isolation in a government-provided hotel, with further COVID-19 tests on the third and sixth days. All arrivals are also asked to sign a pledge to abide by quarantine rules, with penalties for those who fail to comply with its requirements
Japan’s visa waiver system for anyone travelling on a British passport remains suspended
If you’re planning travel to Japan, find out what you need to know about coronavirus there in the Coronavirus section.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to get travel insurance and check it provides sufficient cover. See the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) guidance on foreign travel insurance.
On 21 April 2018, North Korea announced a halt to nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile testing. However, the level of tension on the Korean peninsula can change with little notice, and there is a risk of a further increase in regional tensions which may affect Japan. You should keep in touch with news broadcasts, follow the advice of the local authorities (Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection Portal Site) and keep up to date with this travel advice.
The Japanese authorities continue to maintain some exclusion zones around the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear facility. Travel through these zones on some designated trunk roads is allowed. Follow local signs and instructions while travelling in this area. See Fukushima
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Japan, attacks can not be ruled out. See Terrorism
To contact the emergency services call 110 (police) or 119 (fire and ambulance). Calls are free of charge from any phone, including pay phones.
#AceNewsReport – May.29: But some activities might require you to show that you’ve been vaccinated or had a recent negative #COVID19 test. How you do that may depend on the activity and where you live.
FTC SCAM ALERT: Scammers cash in on confusion over vaccine verification methods: Right now, there’s no standard way to prove you’ve been vaccinated or tested negative. Sure, there are those CDC #COVID19 vaccination cards people get when they get their vaccine.
May 28, 2021by
Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
But they were never designed to prove your vaccination status and they may not be enough. Some states, companies, colleges, and other organizations are creating their own verification products and services, including apps and digital passports or certificates. Some connect to state immunization databases while others rely on individual self-report. The patchwork approach gives scammers an opportunity to cash in on the confusion.
Besides not sharing your COVID-19 vaccination card online because of the risk for identity theft, here are a few other ways to help stay ahead of the scammers.
Be skeptical of anyone contacting you from the federal government. Right now, there are no official plans to create a national vaccine verification app or certificate or passport. If you get a call, email, or text from someone saying they’re from the federal government, and asking you for personal information or money to get a national vaccine certificate or passport, that’s a scam.
Check with airlines, cruise lines, and event venues about their requirements. Don’t rely on information from someone who calls, texts, or emails you out of the blue.
Contact your state governmentabout its vaccine verification plans and requirements.
Don’t share your information with just anyone. Scammers often set up real-looking websites to sell fake goods and services, so why not vaccine verification certificates or passports? Before you share any information online, check out who’s asking for it. Search online for the company or organization’s name with words like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.” Think long and hard before you share personal information, like your Social Security, Medicare, credit card, or bank account numbers. Scammers can steal your information to commit fraud and identity theft.
If you know about a COVID-19 vaccine scam, tell the FTC about it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Or, file a complaint with your state or territory attorney general at consumerresources.org, the consumer website of the National Association of Attorneys General.
#AceHealthReport – Apr.04: Figures show that 23.5% experienced harassment, bullying or abuse during the #Covid19#pandemic: The report added that 3.5% of staff also reported abuse from colleagues:
#CoronavirusNewsDesk – ‘Nearly a quarter of hospital staff in North Yorkshire have been abused by patients in the past 12 months, according to David Watson, from the York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, told a meeting that safety had become a priority in the wake of the Sarah Everard case, the Local Democracy Reporting Services said’
1 day ago
Hospital bosses in York said they were looking at what they can do to improve staff safety both at work and on journeys to and from hospital sites.
“I think it’s an important issue for our staff,” he said.
“We are looking at what we can do to enhance the safety of our staff, both at work and where we have some control on their commute – lighting of pavements between a car park and hospital premises, if there are cycle racks we will look at what can be done to make those safer.”
Nearly a third of employee sickness at the trust is down to mental health, the meeting also heard.
The reports said there had been a “very slight decrease in the number of absences due to mental health in January”, but added: “Although with a recorded absence rate of 28.8 per cent, mental health continues to dominate the primary reason for absences across the trust.
“The trust continues its programme of interventions to support staff mental health and wellbeing.”
#AceHealthReport – Apr.02: Both of these revisions positively impact the supply of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which will help provide more vaccine doses to communities and allow shots to get into arms more quickly,” Peter Marks, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said.
However, the regulator also warned that without proper syringes and needles it may not be possible to extract more that 13 doses from Moderna’s 15 dose vials, and more than 10 doses from the current vials.
Moderna has supplied 100 million doses of its vaccine to the United States as of March 29. Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson’s shots are the other two vaccines approved in the country.
With rising cases and several states even lifting mask mandates and with more infectious variants also spreading, health authorities are hoping that the contracts it struck with the currently approved vaccine makers will be enough for its entire population.
U.S. top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci told Reuters on Thursday that the country may not need AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine even if it wins U.S. regulatory approval.
Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar and Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V & Simon Cameron-Moore
#AceNewsReport – Mar.28: The darknet – a part of the internet that isn’t visible to search engines and requires a special browser to access it – has seen a 300% spike in ads for fake vaccines in the last three months under the guise of brands such as Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik, and SinoPharm, according to Check Point Research (CPR), an IT security firm:
Fake vaccines, certificates being sold on darknet: ‘IT security firm reports 300% spike in darknet ads and Cybercriminals have begun to traffic in fake vaccines and certificates, according to a new report’
“It’s clear to us that the target audience for darknet vaccine vendors are actually dealers, not necessarily the public at large,” Ekram Ahmed, spokesperson at Check Point, told Fox News.
The vendors seem to be interested in setting up long-term relationships, where they deliver vaccines in large quantities over a long time period. Prices for the vaccines range between $500 and $600.
“The vendors want foot soldiers on the ground, in multiple geographies, to distribute the full-spectrum of coronavirus services: vaccines, vaccination certifications and negative COVID tests,” Ahmed said.
And the boom in vaccine-related business on the darknet is recent, according to CPR.
Check Point attempted to buy a vaccine. The vendor first insisted on using an end-to-end encrypted service. Then Check Point began a dialogue with vendor, who assured Check Point that they would get the vaccine and it would be temperature regulated during shipping.
Then the vendor asked for payment via Bitcoin. “We paid them. They gave us a FedEx tracking number. The transaction was made last week, and we have yet to get the vaccine we ordered,” according to Ahmed.
And activity on the darknet has expanded to include fake vaccination cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for $200 per card, CPR said.
Other Darknet activity includes fake negative COVID-19 tests sold as “buy two get the third for free” deals and a do-it-yourself version of a negative COVID-19 test that can be generated in less than 30 minutes for $25.
One hacking forum indicated that “We do negative COVID tests for travelers abroad and for getting a job. Everything is done within 24 hours.”
Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission issued an advisory on COVID vaccine scams.
“Don’t pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for a payment to put you on a list, make an appointment for you, or reserve a spot in line is a scammer,” the FTC said.
And always ignore sales ads for the COVID-19 vaccine because that’s simply not how you get the vaccine, the FTC said. The vaccine is only available at federal- and state-approved locations.
#AceHealthReport – Mar.21: There is quite a bit of pressure on member states to obtain the vaccine for themselves,” she told Germany’s Funke Media Group over the weekend:
Coronavirus: EU ‘not ready’ to share COVID vaccines with poorer countries: Despite earlier promises, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Sunday that the bloc will not share coronavirus vaccines with other countriesuntil it has “a better production situation in the EU.”
The announcement, which comes as the EU is facing a third coronavirus wave and renewed restrictions on public life, signalled an apparent reversal of the bloc’s earlier promises.
Von der Leyen had strongly campaigned for providing vaccines to people worldwide back in spring 2020. But most COVID vaccine doses continue to be administered in wealthy nations.
“The EU has invested €2.2 billion ($2.6 billion) in this initiative. COVAX has already delivered 30 million doses of vaccine to 52 countries,” she said.
EU slams AstraZeneca
EU-based manufacturers have shipped 41 million vaccine doses to 33 countries since early February, von der Leyen said on Saturday, making the bloc one of the world’s largest export regions for coronavirus vaccines.
“I can’t explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren’t sending us anything back,” she said.
Several European countries suspend AstraZeneca vaccine
The EU has set up special mechanisms to limit vaccine exports. Manufacturers contracted to supply member states must declare if they intend to export doses outside the bloc.
The EU chief threatened to suspend exports of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines if the bloc did not receive its promised deliveries first.
“We have the option of banning a planned export. That’s the message to AstraZeneca: you fulfil your contract with Europe first before you start delivering to other countries,” von der Leyen said, adding that the Anglo-Swedish pharma company had delivered only 30% of the 90 million vaccine doses it had promised for the first quarter of the year.
UK warns against EU vaccine export ban
In response to the threats, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Sunday that “the world is watching” how the EU responds to AstraZeneca’s shortfall in deliveries.
“It is counterproductive (to halt exports of vaccines) because the one thing we know about vaccine production and manufacture is that it is collaborative,” he said.
“They (the EU) would undermine not only their own citizens’ chances of having a proper vaccine programme, but also many other countries around the world with the reputational damage for the EU which they would find very hard to change over the short-term,” he added.
The EU has accused the UK of imposing its own de facto export ban. The claim was vigorously denied by the UK, however, there is no evidence to suggest that the UK has exported any COVID vaccines at all, as it relies on complex legal arrangements with manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the EU has exported at least 8 million doses to the UK.
EU plans vaccine passport, vaccinations still slow
#AceNewsReport – Mar.11: With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots:
#Coronavirus Report: Chinese vaccines sweep much of the world, despite concerns: ‘There vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by The Associated Press’
FILE – In this Dec. 23, 2020, file photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Sinovac worker checks the labeling on vials of COVID-19 vaccines on…
FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, file photo, a health worker administers a dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine during the start of the vaccination…
FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, file photo, a teacher receives a shot of the CoronaVac vaccine for COVID-19, by China’s Sinovac Biotech, at Salv…
FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 file photo, President Sebastian Pinera speaks in front of the plane carrying the country’s first batch of the C…
FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 file photo, a worker inspects syringes of a vaccine for COVID-19 produced by Sinovac at its factory in Beijing…
FILE – In this Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, file photo, Terezinha da Conceicao, 80, left, and Dulcinea da Silva Lopes, 59, become the first women in the cou…
FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, an elderly man looks at his vaccination card after getting a shot of the CoronaVac vaccine for COV…
FILE – In this Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, file photo, medical workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine during a mass vaccination in Jakarta, Indonesia. The c…
FILE – In this Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, file photo, a woman gets a shot of China’s Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine as part of a priority COVID-19 vaccination p…
FILE – In this Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, file photo, a health worker holds a box containing a dose of China’s Sinopharm vaccine during the start of the …
FILE – In this Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021 file photo, workers unload a container of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines at the Belgrade Airport in Se…
FILE – In this July 15, 2020 photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, Sinovac staff members work in a purification area to be used in production…
People rest and are monitored for the possibility of side effects after receiving a dose of Chinese Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Belgrade, Serbia, We…
FILE – In this Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021 file photo, Dr. Lili Rahmawaty, right, gives a shot of COVID-19 vaccine to a colleague at North Sumatra Univer…
FILE – In this Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 file photo, a health worker wearing a face mask and shield holds a sign as she and others call on the government …
A man receives a Chinese made Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. China is providing the vaccine to countries…
FILE – In this Monday, Feb, 15, 2021 file photo, an official from the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe holds a Chinese flag next to a plane carrying Sinoph…
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The plane laden with vaccines had just rolled to a stop at Santiago’s airport in late January, and Chile’s president, Sebastián Piñera, was beaming. “Today,” he said, “is a day of joy, emotion and hope.”
The source of that hope: China – a country that Chile and dozens of other nations are depending on to help rescue them from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid a dearth of public data on China’s vaccines, hesitations over their efficacy and safety are still pervasive in the countries depending on them, along with concerns about what China might want in return for deliveries. Nonetheless, inoculations with Chinese vaccines already have begun in more than 25 countries, and the Chinese shots have been delivered to another 11, according to the AP tally, based on independent reporting in those countries along with government and company announcements.
It’s a potential face-saving coup for China, which has been determined to transform itself from an object of mistrust over its initial mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak to a savior. Like India and Russia, China is trying to build goodwill, and has pledged roughly 10 times more vaccines abroad than it has distributed at home.
“We’re seeing certainly real-time vaccine diplomacy start to play out, with China in the lead in terms of being able to manufacture vaccines within China and make them available to others,” said Krishna Udayakumar, founding director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University. “Some of them donated, some of them sold, and some of them sold with debt financing associated with it.”
China has said it is supplying “vaccine aid” to 53 countries and exports to 27, but it rejected a request by the AP for the list. Beijing has also denied vaccine diplomacy, and a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said China considered the vaccine a “global public good.” Chinese experts reject any connection between the export of its vaccines and the revamping of its image.
“I don’t see any linkage there,” said Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalization, a Beijing think tank. “China should do more to help other countries, because it’s doing well.”
China has targeted the low- and middle-income countries largely left behind as rich nations scooped up most of the pricey vaccines produced by the likes of Pfizer and Moderna. And despite a few delays of its own in Brazil and Turkey, China has largely capitalized on slower-than-hoped-for deliveries by U.S. and European vaccine makers.
Like many other countries, Chile received far fewer doses of the Pfizer vaccine than first promised. In the month after its vaccination program began in late December, only around 150,000 of the 10 million Pfizer doses the South American country ordered arrived.
It wasn’t until Chinese company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. swooped in with 4 million doses in late January that Chile began inoculating its population of 19 million with impressive speed. The country now has the fifth highest vaccination rate per capita in the world, according to Oxford University.
Chilean Vilma Ortiz got her Sinovac shot at a school in Santiago’s Nunoa neighborhood, along with about 60 other people. Although she considers herself “kind of a skeptical person,” she said she researched the Chinese vaccines on the Internet and was satisfied.
“I have a lot of faith and confidence in the vaccine,” she said.
In Jakarta, the sports stadium was abuzz as masked healthcare workers filed in to receive their Sinovac shot. Wandering the rows of vaccination stations was Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the first person in the Southeast Asian country to get the Chinese shot, 140 million doses of which he has ordered for his people.
Among those at the stadium was Susi Monica, an intern doctor receiving her second dose. Despite questions over its efficacy, getting the shot was worth it to her, particularly because she didn’t have any adverse reactions to the first dose.
Besides, she said, “Do I have another choice right now?”
The choices are limited for Indonesia and many other low- and middle-income countries clobbered by COVID. Vaccine deployment globally has been dominated by wealthier countries, which have snapped up 5.8 billion of the 8.2 billion doses purchased worldwide, according to Duke University.
China’s vaccines, which can be stored in standard refrigerators, are attractive to countries like Indonesia, a sweltering nation that straddles the equator and could struggle to accommodate the ultracold storage needs of vaccines like Pfizer’s.
The bulk of Chinese shots are from Sinovac and Sinopharm, which both rely on a traditional technology called an inactivated virus vaccine, based on cultivating batches of the virus and then killing it. Some countries view it as safer than the newer, less-proven technology used by some Western competitors that targets the coronavirus’ spike protein, despite publicly available safety data for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines and none for China’s.
“The choice was made for this vaccine because it is developed on a traditional and safe inactivated platform,” said Teymur Musayev, an official with the Ministry of Health in Azerbaijan, which has ordered 4 million Sinovac doses.
In Europe, China is providing the vaccine to countries such as Serbia and Hungary — a significant geopolitical victory in Central Europe and the Balkans, where the West, China and Russia are competing for political and economic influence. This stretch of Europe has offered fertile ground for China to strengthen bilateral ties with Serbia and Hungary’s populist leaders, who often criticize the EU.
Serbia became the first country in Europe to start inoculating its population with China’s vaccines in January. The country has so far purchased 1.5 million doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine, which makes up the majority of the country’s supply, and smaller amounts of Russia’s Sputnik V and Pfizer’s vaccines.
Donning heavy coats against the winter chill, masked-up Serbians have been waiting in long lines for their turn to get the vaccine.
“They have been vaccinating their own people for (a) long period, I assume they have more experience,” Natasa Stermenski, a Belgrade resident, said of her choice to get the Chinese shot at a vaccination center in February.
Neighboring Hungary, impatient over delays in the European Union, soon became the first country in the EU to approve the same Chinese vaccine. On Sunday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban got the Sinopharm shot, after recently saying he trusted the Chinese vaccine the most.
Many leaders have publicly supported the Chinese shots to allay concerns. Early on, “people had all these microchip theories in their heads, genetic modification, sterilization, running around on social media platforms,” said Sanjeev Pugazhendi, a medical officer in the Indian Ocean island nation of the Seychelles, whose president recently received a Sinopharm shot on camera. “But the moment we started giving out the vaccines to leaders, religious leaders and health workers, that started to subside.”
Beijing’s vaccine diplomacy efforts are good for both China and the developing world, experts say.
“Because of the competition for influence, the poor countries can get earlier access for vaccines,” said Yun Jiang, managing editor of the China Story Blog at the Australian National University. “Of course, that’s assuming that all the vaccines are safe and delivered in the right way.”
China’s vaccine diplomacy will only be as good as the vaccines it is offering, and it still faces hurdles.
Ahmed Hamdan Zayed, a nurse in Egypt, was reluctant to receive a vaccine, especially a Chinese one. The frontline health worker would be among the first in the country to get Sinopharm’s shot as part of a mass vaccination campaign. Over 9 million Sinopharm shots have been given outside China.
“We had concerns about vaccines in general,” the 27-year-old father of two said in a phone interview from the Abu Khalifa hospital in the northeastern part of the country. “The Chinese vaccine, in particular, there was insufficient data available compared to other vaccines.”
But Zayed ultimately decided to get the shot after conducting more research. A doctor at his hospital called colleagues in the United Arab Emirates, which had approved the same shot, and they met with Egyptian health officials.
Sinopharm, which said its vaccine was 79% effective based on interim data from clinical trials, did not respond to requests for an interview. Sinopharm’s chairman has said they have not had a single severe adverse event in response to their vaccine.
Chinese vaccine companies have been “slow and spotty” in releasing their trial data, compared to companies like Pfizer and Moderna, said Yanzhong Huang, a global health expert at the U.S. think tank Council for Foreign Relations. None of China’s three vaccine candidates used globally have publicly released their late-stage clinical trial data. CanSino, another Chinese company with a one-shot vaccine that it says is 65% effective, declined to be interviewed.
China’s pharmaceutical business practices also have raised concerns. In 2018, it emerged that one of China’s biggest vaccine companies falsified data to sell its rabies vaccines. That same year, news broke that a Sinopharm subsidiary, which is behind one of the COVID-19 vaccines now, had made substandard diphtheria vaccines used in mandatory immunizations.
With Chinese vaccines, “for a lot of people, the first thing you think about is ‘Made in China,’ and that doesn’t give you much assurance,” said Joy Zhang, a professor at the University of Kent in the UK who studies the ethics of emerging science.
Russia and India have faced similar skepticism, partly because people have less trust in products made outside the Western world, said Sayedur Rahman, head of the pharmacology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in Bangladesh.
“China, India, Russia, Cuba, whenever they develop a vaccine or conduct research, their data is questioned, and people say their process is not transparent,” he said.
A December YouGov poll of 19,000 people in 17 countries and regions on how they felt about different vaccines found that China’s received the second-lowest score, tied with India’s. In the Philippines, which has ordered 25 million Sinovac doses, less than 20% of those surveyed by a research group expressed confidence in China’s vaccines.
Those concerns have been exacerbated by confusion around the efficacy of Sinovac’s shot. In Turkey, where Sinovac conducted part of its efficacy trials, officials have said the vaccine was 91% effective. However, in Brazil, officials revised the efficacy rate in late-stage clinical trials from 78% to just over 50% after including mild infections.
A senior Chinese official said Brazil’s numbers were lower because its volunteers were healthcare workers who faced a higher risk of infection. But other medical experts have said exposure would not affect a vaccine’s effectiveness.
Sinovac’s trials were conducted separately in Turkey and Brazil, and the differences in efficacy rates arise from differences in the populations, a spokesman for the company said in a previous interview with the AP. The company declined to be interviewed for this article. An expert panel in Hong Kong assessed the efficacy of the vaccine at about 51%, and the city approved its use in mid-February.
Globally, public health officials have said any vaccine that is at least 50% effective is useful. International scientists are anxious to see results from final-stage testing published in a peer-reviewed science journal for all three Chinese companies.
It’s also unclear how the Chinese shots work against new strains of the virus that are emerging, especially a variant first identified in South Africa. For example, Sinopharm has pledged 800,000 shots to South Africa’s neighbor, Zimbabwe.
There are concerns among receiving countries that China’s vaccine diplomacy may come at a cost, which China has denied. In the Philippines, where Beijing is donating 600,000 vaccines, a senior diplomat said China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, gave a subtle message to tone down public criticism of growing Chinese assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea.
The senior diplomat said Wang did not ask for anything in exchange for vaccines, but it was clear he wanted “friendly exchanges in public, like control your megaphone diplomacy a little.” The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue publicly.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte publicly said in a news conference on Sunday that China did not ask for anything, as the donations were flown in.
Meanwhile, opposition legislators in Turkey are accusing Ankara’s leaders of secretly selling out Uyghurs to China in exchange for vaccines after a recent shipment delay. The legislators and the Uyghur diaspora community fear Beijing is trying to win passage of an extradition treaty that could see more Uyghurs deported to China.
Despite all the worries, the pandemic’s urgency has largely superseded hesitations over China’s vaccines.
“Vaccines, particularly those made in the West, are reserved for rich countries,” said one Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. “We had to guarantee a vaccine. Any vaccine.”
Gelineau reported from Sydney.
Associated Press researcher Chen Si in Shanghai, and AP reporters Patricia Luna in Santiago, Chile; Sam Magdy in Cairo; Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines; Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia; Aida Sultanova in London; Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary; Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya; Allen G. Breed in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Diane Jeantet in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.
#AceWorldNews – GENEVA – October 21 – Tens of thousands of doses of experimental Ebola vaccines could be available for “real-world” testing in West Africa as soon as January as long as they are deemed safe, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday.
Dr Marie Paule Kieny, an assistant director general for WHO, said clinical trials that are either under-way or planned in Europe, Africa and the U.S. are expected to produce preliminary safety data on two vaccines by December.