【明報專訊】The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 vaccine made by Sinovac for emergency use listing. This is the second Chinese COVID-19 vaccine that has been confirmed by the WHO to be safe and effective, the first being the Sinopharm vaccine. As the COVID-19 virus has kept mutating, the first generation of vaccines, though not panaceas, can slow down the rate at which the pandemic worsens around the world. This gives scientists more time to develop a new generation of vaccines and drugs. Experts say that the many types of vaccines against COVID-19 are still effective against variants to a certain extent. Hong Kong has two vaccines approved by the WHO, namely the Comirnaty and the Sinovac vaccines. Instead of waiting for the ''perfect vaccine'' to become available, the public might as well get vaccinated as soon as possible to build a wall of protection for the sake of themselves and others.
Europe and the US often view ''non-Western vaccines'' suspiciously, and it is common for them to pour cold water on Chinese vaccines. In Hong Kong, some people also hold prejudice against the safety of China-made vaccines. In the era of the pandemic, whoever controls vaccines is able to influence the overall international situation. Owing to vaccine nationalism, there are many theories going around the world that take things out of context and reflect prejudices rather than the truth. Earlier, the WHO approved the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine. There were reports in the US that, despite the use of the Sinopharm vaccine in the Seychelles, an African country, there was still a COVID outbreak. These reports also included comments by US experts, who were sceptical about the Sinopharm vaccine's effectiveness. The WHO approval of the Sinovac vaccine, which has come later than expected, has also led to quite a lot of speculation.
The West often criticises China's vaccine clinical data for ''lacking transparency''. The real problem lies with the easing of the pandemic situation in China, because of which the clinical trials for Chinese vaccines have had to be conducted in a number of different nations. WHO officials have described the process as difficult and challenging. The lack of data for older adults in the clinical trial for the Sinopharm vaccine has had to do with this. A similar situation has also happened to the Sinovac vaccine. The lack of some data has delayed the approval of Chinese vaccines by the WHO. However, after a comprehensive analysis of all the data, experts from the WHO believe that the two vaccines are safe, effective and suitable for elderly people. Of course, the actual limitations on clinical trials aside, Chinese vaccine manufacturers have to learn a lesson from their interaction with the WHO. The Sinovac vaccine was approved by the WHO nearly a month later than the Sinopharm vaccine, and one of the reasons was that the WHO required Sinovac to provide data about the vaccine's production to determine whether it met the standards. Sinovac is not as familiar with the WHO's process for approving a vaccine as Western drug companies such as AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer are, and is relatively lacking in experience. This is an area in which China needs to learn and improve itself.
The COVID-19 virus might stay forever. One way to overcome it in the long run is to develop highly effective drugs to treat it so that its threat is reduced to the level similar to that of influenza. Mainland drug companies and Western ones, such as Pfizer, are all taking research forward in this area. The more people who are vaccinated, the more likely we are able to slow down the global pandemic. Scientists will then have more time to develop more effective treatments. The WHO has confirmed that the Comirnaty and Sinovac vaccines are both safe and effective. Instead of waiting indefinitely for the ''perfect vaccine'', which is unrealistic, it is better to seize the opportunity and get vaccinated as soon as possible.
明報社評 2021.06.03：世衛認可科興疫苗 打針抗疫放下成見
■/ Glossary 生字 /
panacea /ˌpænəˈsiːə/：sth that will solve all the problems of a particular situation
lacking /ˈlækɪŋ/：having none or not enough of sth
indefinitely /ɪnˈdefɪnətli/：for a period of time with no fixed limit