Top Chinese official admits vaccines have low effectiveness

Full Screen
1 / 6

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A medical worker adjusts her mask near propaganda boards showing famed Chinese medical expert Zhong Nanshan and the words "Vaccine China Made" outside vaccination center in Beijing Friday, April 9, 2021. In a rare admission of the weakness of Chinese coronavirus vaccines, the country's top disease control official says their effectiveness is low and the government is considering mixing them to give them a boost. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING – China’s top disease control official, in a rare acknowledgement, said current vaccines offer low protection against the coronavirus and mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness.

China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of domestically made vaccines abroad and is relying on them for its own mass immunization campaign.

But the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said at a conference Saturday their efficacy rates needed improving.

“We will solve the issue that current vaccines don't have very high protection rates,” Gao said in a presentation on Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and immunization strategies at a conference in the southwestern city of Chengdu. “It’s now under consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process.”

He also praised the benefits of mRNA vaccines, the technology behind the two vaccines seen as the most effective, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, months after questioning whether the then-unproven method was safe.

In a message to The Associated Press, Gao said late Sunday night he was speaking about the effectiveness rates for “vaccines in the world, not particularly for China.” He did not respond to further questions about which vaccines he was referring to.

He directed the AP to an interview he did with the state-owned Global Times, which has published several articles raising doubts about the safety of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. Gao was quoted by the outlet Sunday as saying he was misunderstood and merely talking in general terms about improving vaccine efficacy.

Beijing earlier tried to promote doubt about the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which uses genetic code called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to prime the immune system.