The oil company worker wants to know why he must keep his vaccine secret. When he read the non-disclosure agreement, many questions popped up in his mind, which threatened disciplinary action if he told anyone outside the company about the COVID-19 footage that the company was waiting to obtain.
What if something goes wrong? Who is responsible? The worker knew that the vaccine manufacturer China Biotechnology Group (part of the state-owned pharmaceutical group Sinopharm) is testing the vaccine on hundreds of thousands of volunteers in the United Arab Emirates, Peru, Morocco and other countries.
He said of these trials: “At least they are under surveillance.” He watched hundreds of colleagues line up around him for injections at a Beijing clinic. “But for us, they cannot make any guarantees. This is our sacrifice for the country.”
The unnamed employee for fear of retaliation is one of hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before clinical trials are proven safe. The Chinese military began vaccinating in June. Medical workers and employees of state-owned companies working abroad were quickly included in the “emergency use” plan. In September last year, an executive of China’s National Biotechnology Corporation stated that 350,000 people had received treatment outside of clinical trials.
After the 2018 scandal, early vaccination of high-profile populations has become a way of expressing trust, demonstrating that China’s medical system has exposed children to bad vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus.
In March, social media users widely shared photos of Chen Wei, a military general and epidemiologist who led a coronavirus vaccine effort, praising her for receiving injections before testing animals. Yin Weidong, CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, told reporters last month that he was the first person to use the vaccine after the first two trial phases. The company said that about 90% of Sinovac employees voluntarily vaccinate in advance.
According to the website of a company that was later dismissed, the China National Biotechnology Group began offering free vaccines to Chinese students planning to go abroad this month. The website says that more than 93,000 people have signed up for the free vaccine. The vaccinated students also shared their experiences to local and foreign media. But state media later reported that the free vaccine was “not real.”
According to reports, some cities in Zhejiang Province have also begun to provide vaccines produced by Sinovac. In Yiwu City, Chinese media found that a clinic provided vaccine injection needles on a “first come, first served” basis for about US$30 each. According to local reports, most people who received the shooting were people who planned to travel internationally, although they did not have to prove it.
None of these vaccines have completed the Phase 3 trial, which usually captures rare side effects that cannot be found in the early stages.
The Chinese health authorities stated that these vaccines are safe and have no serious adverse effects, and the purpose of their “emergency use” is to prevent imported infections or the recurrence of domestic COVID-19. But health experts outside China have questioned the safety and ethics of this strategy, especially when China has largely contained the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute of National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, said: “This is a huge gamble because you are vaccinating healthy people.”
In a country where the virus is spreading rapidly and front-line workers are frequently exposed to COVID-19 (such as in the United States), this risk may be justified, but Western health experts and vaccine manufacturers have been wary of launching vaccines too early.
“I don’t want countries with highly developed regulations and security systems like the United States and the European Union. [states] Or Japan allows widespread use of unproven vaccines. “This is unethical and dangerous.” “
The oil company worker usually lives in the Persian Gulf countries, but has been trapped in Beijing since January. He sent a copy of the consent form and non-disclosure agreement that he had to sign before receiving the vaccination to The Times. He also provided screenshots of WeChat discussions between colleagues about vaccination.
The worker said that he received the vaccine in September, which is a requirement of all employees working abroad. He is concerned that China’s mass vaccination of employees of state-owned companies and other citizens lacks transparency or is subject to scrutiny. He said that there was no written document to force them to receive the vaccine, but unless they were vaccinated, they were not allowed to return to work abroad.
“Are you worried about vaccines? Of course. But are you afraid of getting sick? Yes, you are always afraid,” said an oil company worker.
He said that it was “politically incorrect” to question vaccines at his company. Most of his colleagues are eager for it. They are more worried about contracting COVID-19 abroad than about the safety of the vaccine.
He said that some project managers are urging vaccination and encouraging employees to inject two injections at a time instead of waiting for the recommended interval of 14 or 28 days between injections.
“I saw someone combining two guns into one… But you must say that you are leaving this country urgently.” A colleague who seems to be coordinating staff vaccinations wrote in a screenshot on WeChat. A colleague said: “I think the three of you can save on travel and return to the project earlier…. Ask them if they can take two photos at once.”
The consent form shared by the employees seems to be able to verify the account: “If you need to go abroad urgently and you really cannot complete the two vaccinations, you can consider receiving two injections at the same time, one on each side. The form says.
Although no serious adverse reactions have been observed in this vaccine, this form warns of possible fever, fatigue, diarrhea and headache. Other vaccines on the market sometimes cause severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock. The form says that if this happens to vaccinators, they should “see prompt treatment”.
Keiji Fukuda, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong, said that a certain interval of vaccine dose is usually required so that the first “primary” dose can stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize new pathogens, while the second “enhanced” dose can stimulate more High antibody levels. Public health and former World Health Organization official.
He said: “Giving two doses on the same day is an attempt to increase antibody levels by giving more vaccines.” He said: “The primary immunization-boost therapy method uses the natural effects of the immune system. The high-dose method is more like brute force. “
Huang Yanzhong, senior researcher for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that premature use of vaccines can also create a false sense of security. He said that China claims that its emergency-use vaccines are effective because they can produce antibodies, “but this is a low threshold.”
More tests are needed to show the effectiveness of the antibodies, how long they last and whether they can resist different strains of coronavirus-in China, due to the lack of active outbreaks, it is difficult to prove whether the vaccine is working.
A representative of the oil company said on the phone that he “cannot disclose any information about the vaccination.” Sinopharm did not answer the phone and did not respond to faxed requests for comment.
A Times reporter visited the vaccination site for workers of the oil company in late September, which was a clinic near Beijing Olympic Park. The medical staff there confirmed that they were distributing the coronavirus vaccine, but only to employees of designated state-owned enterprises, and stated that all their appointment vacancies for next month had been filled.
According to reports, Sinovac, the company that distributes vaccines in Zhejiang, did not receive a call and did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
The opacity of China’s vaccine experiments has sparked strong opposition. Papua New Guinea complained in August that China sent landmine workers receiving vaccines to its country, but did not fully disclose whether they were part of the trial or the risk of workers receiving the vaccine.
However, many countries have also greatly appreciated China’s coronavirus vaccine, and Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to make it a “global public good.” The Brazilian health regulator approved the import of 6 million vaccines from Sinovac this week. The United Arab Emirates approved its emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine in September. Sinovac has agreed to provide 40 million doses of vaccine to Indonesia by March.
China announced this month that it will join COVAX, a global initiative to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines to developing countries. Sinopharm Group also announced this month that it is preparing production lines in Beijing and Wuhan and will produce one billion doses of vaccine next year.
Regardless of whether there is a vaccine transparency issue, this move has strengthened China’s soft power, especially compared with the United States, which has been unable to contain its COVID-19 epidemic, has withdrawn from the World Health Organization and refused to participate in COVAX.
Huang Jie said: “When we accuse China of using vaccines to achieve its foreign policy goals, we cannot claim moral high ground. No matter what they are doing, at least they benefit people in developing countries.” “We like to talk about China’s use of vaccines. Diplomacy, but the United States does not even participate in it.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.