Preparing a corona vaccination at Beihang University
Photo: Ren Chao / picture alliance / dpa / Xinhua
In order to increase the effectiveness of its corona vaccines, China is apparently considering a combination of different preparations.
The authorities must "think about ways to solve the problem that the effectiveness of the existing vaccines is not high," said the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, according to state media reports at a conference in Chengdu on Saturday .
It is the first time that a high-ranking representative of China has publicly acknowledged the relatively low effectiveness of the corona vaccines developed in the country.
The idea of combining vaccine supplements in order to educate better effectiveness, however, is not new.
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Researchers in Great Britain are already investigating the effectiveness of a vaccination in which one dose is administered by AstraZeneca and the other by Biontech / Pfizer.
The hope is that the immune system will be stimulated in slightly different ways by the various agents and that an even more stable immune response will result.
With vector vaccines like the one from AstraZeneca, the risk of the immune system attacking the harmless transport virus required for these vaccines during the second vaccination and thus impairing the effectiveness of the vaccination would be eliminated (read more here)
No agent can compete with mRNA products
So far, four corona vaccines have received conditional marketing authorization in China: three so-called dead vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm, which are administered in two doses, and the vector vaccine from CanSino, which is given in one dose.
Sinovac's vaccine achieved a protective effect of around 50 percent against symptomatic diseases with the coronavirus in clinical studies in Brazil.
According to the company, the vaccine prevents about 80 percent of the severity of the disease that requires medical treatment.
The two corona vaccines from Sinopharm have an effectiveness of around 79.3 and 72.5 percent, respectively.
CanSino's vaccine protects about 75 percent against Covid-19.
For comparison: The Covid-19 vaccines approved in the European Union (EU) all offer almost one hundred percent protection against serious illnesses with the new Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The mRNA-based agents from Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna also protect about 95 percent against symptomatic Covid-19 courses.
The vector vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson achieve similar values as the vaccines from China.
mRNA vaccines for China?
With the dead vaccines, the country has largely relied on a different strategy for vaccine production than companies in the USA or Europe.
The technology is tried and tested, the funds can be produced very quickly in large quantities.
The disadvantage, however, is that the immune response is often lower than with other vaccine technologies.
Gao Fu did not provide details of a possible change in the Chinese vaccination strategy, but did mention mRNA vaccines.
Everyone should consider what benefits these "can bring for humanity," he said.
These should not be ignored "just because we already have several types of vaccines."
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Since the vaccination campaign started last year, 161 million vaccine doses have been administered in China.
The country has shipped hundreds of millions more cans around the world.
Beijing's goal is to fully immunize 40 percent of China's 1.4 billion people by June.
Foreign vaccines have not yet been approved for this and have been viewed critically, including by Gao Fu.
He had previously raised questions about safety, partly because the technology has not been tested as long as, for example, dead vaccines.
The Xinhua News Agency said that Gao Fu said in December that it could not rule out side effects of the mRNA vaccines, since they were being used for the first time in healthy people.
Chinese state media as well as health and science blogs repeatedly questioned the safety and effectiveness of the funds.
Large approval studies with tens of thousands of test persons as well as the millions of use, for example in Israel, the EU and the USA, had already confirmed the effectiveness and safety of the agents.
jme / AFP / AP