By Herman Tiu Laurel

China Covid-19 vax in developing countries

November 19, 2020, 4:00 pm

AS Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the now world-renowned US American immunologist who had served as director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and one of the lead members of the Trump White House Coronavirus Task Force until their falling out, in an interview with JAMA (Journal of American Medical Association), said about China’s anti-coronavirus efforts:

“The Chinese when they made the diagnosis and showed that it was the coronavirus (in the Wuhan episode) they put the sequence upon a public database so today you don’t need to get the virus on hand, all we need is the sequence...”

And thus, as early as the first weeks of January medical and vaccine laboratories all over the world has already started to develop the vaccines the world needs to fight and contain the COVID 19 pandemic that is wreaking so much havoc in the lives of billions of the human population on our earth. At this point today, we are nearing a climax in the race for that all-important vaccine.

Generally, vaccines are 90% effective.

In the past week, we have seen headlines of vaccines announcing efficacy rates of 90% up to 95% from US vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, respectively, and that’s good news. The Russia Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine is in early report 92% effective, its announcement stated. China’s top expert Zhong Nanshan also announced that China’s vaccines are also 90% effective.

Two different methods, one classical and the other using a new platform are used in producing the vaccines. The classical one is tried and tested using inactivated or attenuated viruses while the new one uses DNA or mRNA which is said to be faster and as effective though safe where long-term effects may not be completely understood yet.

Some cold realities

Two crucial factors will determine the practicability of the two basic types of vaccines, one factor emerging now is the storage temperature and shelf life. The vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna require storage temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius and – 20 degrees Celsius respectively which is unavailable immediately in the volume needed even in the US while shelf life is only up to six months.

Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm and CanSino Biologics require normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius and may remain stable for up to three years, according to the CoronVac study, making them immediately practicable for the Philippines. Russia’s Sputnik vaccine requires -18 degrees cold storage but it is now to produce freeze-dried versions which may take some time.

In-country trials

Another advantage of the China vaccines is in-country Philippine Phase III trials. Our Philippine FDA and DOST Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) has already given the green light for several Chinese vaccine companies to conduct in-country Phase III trials before the full delivery and release of the vaccines expected by early 2021. Chinese companies Sinovac and Cover Biopharmaceuticals have applied for the in-country vaccine trials in the Philippines.

In the regular DOH updates Undersecretary Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire reported that the US vaccine producers have not expressed interest in doing in-country trials in the Philippines. Although it is not a mandatory requirement the country prefers to have such in-country trials to gain more insight and knowledge into the effects of the vaccines on the specific population.

Vaccines as ‘global public good’

The cost of the vaccines is a major factor in developing countries like the Philippines, although all the vaccines are at this early stages being reported to cost from $ 30 to 70 per dose needing two doses each, the US vaccines cost will rise as government-funded vaccines run out while those of China have been pledged by its government to be distributed to developing countries as “global public good” hence lower and with loan packages offered.

Thanks to China, again countries too hard up with the Covid-19 pandemic, aggravated due to the unfortunate timing of the crisis by the devastating impact of several typhoons in its midst like the Philippines, have a chance at a faster and easier recovery with practical and lowest cost vaccines. That’s clearly the advantage of having a socialist, humanitarian government as a friend of the Philippines.

Payback for the independent foreign policy

Thanks most of all to President Duterte for making this link with China possible by his “Independent Foreign Policy” that the Philippines is no longer dependent on the US or other Western governments for such life-saving and basic essentials for the health care of our nation. The benefits of this productive relationship with China assumes even greater significance as we struggle to rise from the  Covid-19 and typhoon crises to rebuild the economy.

From the vaccine to the forthcoming upsurge in trade, exports, and tourism that our people will bank on for a rapid recovery from the economic crunch, it is this relation that we can pin our hopes; especially now with the China-backed RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) signed last November 15, 2020, and the regional markets opening up even wider to our Philippine products and services.

(Join: “Power Thinks” with Ka Mentong Laurel and guests every Wednesday 6 pm Live on Global Talk News Radio (GTNR) on Facebook and Talk News TV on YouTube, and every Sunday 8 to 10 am on RP1 738 on your AM radio dial.)


About the Columnist

Image of Herman Tiu Laurel

Herman Tiu Laurel is a veteran journalist and founder of think tank PHILIPPINE-BRICS Strategic Studies.