Director of China CDC criticizes misleading accounts
Gao Fu, director-general of Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has made it clear that boosting vaccine protection is a question of global concern, not only for China.
During a forum held on Saturday, Gao proposed upgrading immunization procedures or mixing doses using different technologies as ways to further improve vaccine effectiveness.
However, some media reports have misinterpreted his statement as claiming that Chinese vaccines do not have high efficacy rates, the scientist said.
"They (media reports) are misleading and have taken my words out of context," Gao said during an interview with online media outlet Guancha.cn on Sunday.
"The World Health Organization requires all COVID-19 vaccines to have an efficacy rate of 50 percent or higher, and to be effective in preventing severe infections and deaths. All approved vaccines meet these standards," he said.
Worldwide, nearly 270 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in different stages of development, and 21 of them have completed or are undergoing the third and late stage of human trials, Gao said at the forum.
"Testing data on vaccines being researched around the world are varying, with some higher and some lower. Further improving vaccines' protection rates is worth considering for global scientists and from a global perspective," he was quoted by Guancha.cn as saying.
The quest includes China, but is not limited to China, he added.
Gao said new approaches mentioned in his speech, such as combining different vaccines, changing the number of doses and the length of time between each dose, points to possible pathways for research in the future.
"It is the first time for humans to get COVID-19 vaccines, and current immunization procedures are deduced from past experiences with other vaccines in use," Gao said.
"Though outcomes are very satisfying so far, we will be able to make further improvements based on specific features of the novel coronavirus and the mass immunization situation," he said at the forum, adding that the international community will need to address a number of scientific questions on COVID-19 vaccines in the future.
Many global health experts have cautioned against fixating on comparing the effectiveness rates of different vaccines and overlooking their role in reducing deaths and hospitalizations.
David Kennedy, an infectious disease expert at Pennsylvania State University in the United States, said during an earlier interview with top scientific journal Nature that because of different definitions of key criteria, such as what amounts to a severe episode of COVID-19 illness, and various localities for clinical trials, it is not possible to rank vaccines solely based on trial results.
Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official who heads China's COVID-19 vaccine development task force, said on Saturday that clinical trials show that all domestic vaccines can prevent severe cases and deaths at nearly 100 percent.
"This means a lot for each individual. To put it simply, the worst result for a person who is infected after inoculation is something like a common cold," he said. "More attention should be paid to the much lower rates of deaths and serious infections through vaccination."
China has issued conditional approval to four domestically made vaccines and granted emergency use approval to one domestic candidate. Three different technologies have been deployed in these products.