Health International Politics

Malaysia may get China’s vaccines early. But those who tested it, can’t talk about it.

When we talk about Covid-19 vaccines, you may be thinking of the race between China, Russia and the US in making a Covid-19 vaccine. Or you may have heard of Covax. But, just recently, China said that it is prioritising Malaysia in providing its vaccines.

Headline from The Star

In fact, Malaysia’s fav abah Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that Malaysia would be the first country to get China’s vaccine.

“China has assured us that Malaysia will be the first country that it would help in supplying the Covid-19 vaccine.” – Muhyiddin, as quoted by NST.

But is this actually true? And if it is true, then does that mean we’re all GUINEA PIGS considering how China is still testing out its vaccines?! Well, as it turns out…

 

African countries will be the first to get China’s vaccine

So China has been making vaccines (yea, not one but FOUR of them to date) since July 2020. There are three major companies involved in making these vaccines – Sinovac Biotech, Sinopharm and military-affiliated private firm, CanSino Biologics

China launched a vaccine emergency use programme to test out its vaccines and since then, those vaccines have been tested out on tens – if not hundreds – of thousands of people in China. We’re talking about frontliners, politicians, military officials and even employees of the vaccine companies themselves! You can take a look at the video below by SCMP to see how the vaccines are developed. 

And by now, China is already in Phase 3 of its clinical trials on these vaccines. What this means is that China is currently trying out its vaccines on people in other countries. One reason for this is because the Covid-19 cases in the republic are under control

But that doesn’t mean China is turning Malaysians into guinea pigs although it has plans to test its vaccines out in countries that are involved in the Belt and Road Initiative. At the time of writing, China is conducting clinical trials in more than six countries including Brazil and Indonesia besides planning to conduct more of these trials in 18 other countries

And to say that Malaysia would be the first country to test out the vaccine would be inaccurate considering how the first country to test out China’s vaccine is the United Arab Emirates. It has tested and authorised an emergency use of China’s vaccine on its frontliners just six weeks after the human trials began in the country.

In addition, it doesn’t seem accurate to say that Malaysia would be the first country to get the vaccine once it’s completed either although China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, said that Malaysia would be given priority to receive them. This is because China’s President, Xi Jinping has vowed to make African countries among the first to benefit from its vaccines upon their completion.

“We pledge that once the development and deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit.” – Xi, as quoted by Xinhuanet.

In fact, China is like that guy who’d go around complimenting girls, making them feel special when it decided to prioritise several other countries to provide these vaccines such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Plot twist: none of these countries are special to China’s eyes. 🙁 Unedited images from The Star and China Daily

China is predicting that these vaccines would be available to the public as early as November 2020 seeing how they are already at the last stages of clinical trials. But real question tho – how safe are these vaccines anyway?

 

There’s no reported side effects because those who took the vaccines can’t talk about it 0_O

While China was busy testing out its vaccines, experts from around the world (but mainly ang moh experts la ok) were pretty wary of the side effects of the vaccines. This is mainly caused by the recent incident where a volunteer who took Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was reported to have fallen sick

Besides that, a vaccine made by Oxford in collaboration with AstraZeneca also reported side effects on one of its participants. Clinical trials on vaccines produced by the aforementioned entities have stopped for a while tho Oxford and AstraZeneca have recently resumed their clinical trials in Brazil.

The first human guinea pig trial of the vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca. Img from Business Insider

While this is nothing out of the ordinary, especially for large clinical trials, here’s where it gets concerning. Producers of China’s vaccines, particularly CanSino, were apparently using the same methods used by Jonhson & Johnson and Oxford and AstraZeneca to develop the vaccines. 

However, it’s noteworthy that China producers also used several other methods simultaneously to ensure a higher success rate in making vaccines. So, does that mean there’s absolutely no side effects to China’s vaccines?

Well, we could safely say that so far since there are no reported side effects as of now. Not short- or even long-term effects. Nada!

The only side effect reported by a diplomat who got the shot wassleepiness(?). 

“I was extremely sleepy for a few days, but didn’t notice any other side effects.” – The diplomat, as quoted by Nikkei Asia.

Nothing unusual here. Just sleepiness. Gif from Tenor

And there may be an explanation as to why nobody could find the side effects of China’s vaccine. As it turns out, those who took the vaccine were made to sign a non-disclosure agreement to not talk about the vaccine to the media

Dr Kim Mulholland of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute claimed that he was worried about some of the participants in the clinical trials such as employees of the companies that produce the vaccines might not have a choice but to take the shot

“My worry for the employees of the companies is it may be difficult for them to refuse.” – Dr Kim, as quoted by The New York Times.

Despite these worries, China doesn’t seem to be putting whatever it was doing on a halt. In fact, the republic proceeded with its clinical trials outside of China. But with experts’ worries in mind, this may be why…

 

NAH, BACA:
How China might have forced Malaysia to keep Lynas

Malaysia is currently shopping around for Covid-19 vaccines

Despite the assurance given by China, what the Malaysian govt is actually doing as of now is to get its hands on the supplies for Covid-19 vaccines ASAP, especially for vulnerable groups in Malaysia. And, according to National Institutes of Biotechnology chairman Datuk Ahmad Zaki Zahid, Malaysia is doing this because developed countries have pre-ordered some 5.7 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines as we speak.

“Firstly, we need to make sure that we get a vaccine supply that is safe and effective as the 5.7 billion doses do not include us or less developed countries.” – Ahmad Zaki, as quoted by NST.

Ahmad Zaki. Img from NST

This may be why Malaysia doesn’t seem to be solely relying on China for Covid-19 vaccines la. One reason being that the cost of China’s vaccines may be costly. Imagine paying USD72.50 (RM301.27) for a dose of Covid-19 vaccine! 💸💸💸

However, we won’t deny that some countries are really attracted to China’s offer, especially when the republic said that they don’t need to pay any upfront or reservation payments whatsoever for the vaccines. However, according to CodeBlue’s calculations, there might be a cheaper alternative for Covid-19 vaccine, which is by getting them through Covax (RM88 for TWO doses of vaccines, including upfront payments) tho the govt was recommended to provide free vaccines to the rakyat.

Just in case you’ve forgotten, Covax is a global vaccine access plan coordinated by international vaccine alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and the World Health Organisation. And it aims to distribute Covid-19 vaccines fairly throughout the world. 

Although there have been reports stating that Malaysia has somewhat missed the deadline to sign this deal, it seems like the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin is still negotiating the terms for this deal. 

In addition, Khairy is reportedly in direct discussions with other pharmaceutical companies without going through Covax. And when we say that Malaysia is shopping around for Covid-19 vaccines, we don’t only mean these efforts.

Khairy in his recent interview with BFM. Img from Malay Mail

As it turns out, the Malaysian govt was also looking at Russia’s Sputnik V and had requested more info from the Russian embassy on this vaccine. The govt had also expressed its intention to collaborate with Finlay Vaccine Institute (BioCubaFarma) and the Centre of Genetic Engineering Biotechnology (CIGB), Cuba to come out with a vaccine. Well, this may not seem like a new effort considering Malaysia’s history of collaborating with Cuba to develop vaccines for other diseases.

At the end of the day, it seems as though most, if not all, countries are tryna get their hands on Covid-19 vaccines. But Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur respiratory physician Dr Helmy Haja Mydin said that it shouldn’t put a stop to the country’s new normal.

And that’s because even when vaccines are available for everyone, Dr Helmy said it would take at least three years to vaccinate 70% of the global population

“The vaccine is a tool or armour, but the health and safety measures will be here for sometime.” – Dr Helmy, as quoted by NST.

With that being said, it would still be best to keep on practicing the usual health and safety measures. And until (and even when) we get a vaccine, mask up, wash or sanitise your hands regularly and keep a distance from other people whenever you’re in public. Stay safe, gais!

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