China defends its Covid vaccine after Brazilian Prez Bolsonaro’s guinea pig jibe
China on Thursday defended its vaccine research and development capabilities, a day after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro cancelled plans to buy a potential Covid-19 vaccine from it with a jibe that the Brazilian people will not be “anyone’s guinea pig”. “The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig,” Bolsonaro said on Wednesday, a day after Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said Brazil wants to buy 46 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine for the immunisation programme.
China’s Sinovac vaccine was being tested by Brazil’s research centre Butantan Institute and still needs to be approved by the health regulator to be used in the population.
Asked for his reaction to Bolsonaro’s comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that “China’s vaccines R &D leads the world”.
He said four vaccines of China are currently in phase three clinical trial stage.
“Chinese vaccines R&D indeed spoken off highly by various countries,” he said, adding that China is also part of COVAX, the World Health Organisation’ alliance to equitably distribute Covid-19 vaccines around the world. Bolsonaro said the Chinese vaccine has not yet completed testing, which is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus. “My decision is to not purchase such a vaccine.” Brazil has been one of the countries worst affected by the coronavirus.
It has had nearly 5.3 million confirmed cases - the third-highest tally in the world after the US and India - and is second only to the US in terms of deaths, with nearly 155,000 registered so far, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University.
Bolsonaro’s decision came as a dampener for China’s push to use its vaccines as a diplomatic tool to enhance its global image with the supply of coronavirus vaccines to especially developing countries. However, Zhao said that China is “committed that once deployed and put into use our vaccines will be for the global public good.” “China will contribute to the accessibility and affordability of the vaccines in developing countries”, he said, adding that China and Brazil have seen sound cooperation in Covid-19 control.
“We believe that such cooperation will contribute to our final and absolute victory over the virus in China, Brazil and around the world,” he said.
Brazil’s decision on Sinovac followed Bangladesh’s decision to stall the phase-3 trial after the Chinese firm asked the Bangladeshi government to co-finance it.