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Five countries with most deaths from COVID-19 use Chinese vaccines – Report

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There are already 37 nations that have given at least one dose to 50% of their population. In that group, only five are recording more than one daily death per million inhabitants: two are immunizing with Sinovac and three with Sinopharm

Gao Fu, director of China’s Centers for Disease Control, had admitted it in April: vaccines developed by the Asian country “do not have very high protection rates.” Then he went out of his way and tried to reinterpret his claim by saying that he actually meant all the vaccines that are being administered around the world. But he was clearly referring to his country’s formulas.

“It is now officially considered whether we should use different vaccines, from different technical lines, for the immunization process,” Gao had said at his initial press conference, suggesting the possibility of increasing protection by combining his preparations with those developed in other countries. In fact, he clarified, “Everyone should consider the benefits that mRNA vaccines can bring to humanity,” which is the one used by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

It’s not that Chinese vaccines don’t work. There is much evidence that they reduce the risk of severe COVID-19, which can end in hospitalizations and deaths. However, a review of how the populations of countries with more advanced immunization campaigns are reacting reveals that they are less effective than others, such as those of Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, or that of AstraZeneca.

There are already 37 countries in which half the population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Ordered from highest to lowest percentage of coverage, these are: Malta (83.45%), Iceland (77.61%), United Arab Emirates (75.2%), Seychelles (72.7%), Canada (69.27 %), Nauru (69.22%), Chile (68.3%), Uruguay (67.73%), United Kingdom (67.32%), San Marino (66.25%), Israel (66.12 %), Singapore (65.69%), Holland (65.26%), Belgium (64.91%), Mongolia (64.09%), Qatar (64.04%), Bahrain (63.62%) , Bhutan (62.83%), Finland (62.09%), Denmark (61.9%), Spain (58.89%), Maldives (58.86%), Portugal (58.39%), Luxembourg (58.38%), Germany (57.79%), Italy (57.78%), Hungary (57.18%), Norway (55.84%), Ireland (55.44%), Austria (55 , 29%), United States (54.88%), Sweden (54.7%), Andorra (53.99%), Cyprus (53.47%), France (52.31%), Liechtenstein (52, 2%) and Switzerland (52.06%).

This level of protection allows an estimate of the effect of the different vaccines to combat COVID-19. On average, these 37 countries have 161 daily cases per million inhabitants and 0.74 daily deaths per million. For a measure of comparison, at the worst moment of the pandemic, Europe averaged 383 cases and 7.37 deaths per day.

These reveal something significant: the decrease is much more evident in deaths than in infections. The first thing that stands out is that 13 countries, that is, approximately a third, are registering more than 100 daily infections per million, a high number.

Above 1,000 there is only one, which is Seychelles, with 1,194. It is one of those that mainly used one of the Chinese formulas, that of Sinopharm, a state-owned company, the Chinese National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation. 

But very close, with 901 infections every 24 hours, is Cyprus, which inoculated mostly with Pfizer / BioNTech. 

Third, with 607 cases, is Mongolia, which also used Sinopharm. 

Fourth, with 429, is the United Kingdom, which used AstraZeneca and Pfizer / BioNTech almost in the same proportion. 

Fifth, with 315, is Spain, which vaccinated essentially with Pfizer / BioNTech.

Uruguay: daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants – Main vaccine applied: Sinovac
L: Infection, R: Deaths

So when looking at infections, there don’t seem to be big differences between the different vaccines. But the panorama is different when the daily death rate is investigated, which is what the second graph shows. Unlike the first, where several countries are seen in the middle of the table, 32 of the 37 are squashed down, with less than one daily death per million inhabitants. It is the strongest evidence of how important vaccines are to saving lives.

What that graph also allows us to visualize is that the five nations that are above one death used primarily Chinese vaccines. Those with the highest mortality at this time are Chile, with 6.18 deaths, and Uruguay, with 6.09. Both applied the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech, a private Chinese laboratory, more than anyone else. The other three injected mainly Sinopharm: Seychelles, which registers 4.36 deaths; Mongolia, with 2.96; and Bahrain, with 1.51.

Seychelles: daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants – Main vaccine applied: Sinopharm
L: Infections, R: Deaths

Both Sinovac and Sinopharm use inactivated viruses to elicit an immune response in the patient, a method widely used in vaccines. Both were approved by the World Health Organization, which reports that in trials conducted in Brazil, Sinovac was approximately 50% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective against severe conditions, while the efficacy of Sinopharm was estimated 79% in both areas.

The truth is that those numbers come from tests. But the mass vaccination revealed other things. The case of Chile is very interesting. Although infections fell from the peak of 382 in mid-April to 147 this week, there was the paradox that deaths increased. In January, when vaccination had not yet started, the average was 2.39. Now it is 6.18.

Chile: daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants – Main vaccine applied: Sinovac
L: Cases, R: Deaths

The Chilean Ministry of Health presented on April 16 a study on the effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine that revealed that with a single dose the protection is only 3% against contagion, but that 14 days after the second dose is applied it rises to 67 percent. However, the effectiveness in preventing death is not 100%, but 80%. That means that getting the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of dying, but there are 20% of people vaccinated with the two doses can end up losing their lives.

These are very different numbers than those recorded in the countries that used Pfizer / BioNTech. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, revealed that of the more than 9,000 people who died from COVID-19 in June, only 0.8% were fully vaccinated. Israel reported that the effectiveness in May of that formula had been 98.2% in avoiding hospitalizations.

This difference in the margin of protection is clearly seen in Uruguay, where it is true that infections fell a lot after reaching a peak of 1,113 in May, to 184 this week. But deaths, which are also falling (from 17.5 to 6.09), are still well above before the start of mass inoculation, when they ranged from one to two.

Sinopharm’s vaccine appears to be slightly more effective than Sinovac’s, but the worst-affected countries that used it also show less promising data than those that used other formulas. Seychelles, for example, where 72.7% of the population is already vaccinated with one dose, has more deaths and cases than before the start of mass vaccination. The same is seen in Mongolia, where cases went from 12 in March to more than 600 today, and deaths from zero to 2.96.

Mongolia: daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants – Main vaccine applied: Sinopharm
L: Infections, R: Death
Bahrain: daily cases and deaths per million inhabitants – Main vaccine applied: Sinopharm
L: Infection, R: Death

The one that shows the best figures of the five is Bahrain, where after a maximum of 1,748 cases and 14 deaths, it rose to 63 and 1.51. It’s almost the same level it was at the beginning of the year.

What can be seen in the three European countries that are among those with the most infections at this time – within the group of the 37 that vaccinated the most, of course – is a strong outbreak in recent weeks, attributed above all to the advance of the variant Delta, which has not resulted in a comparable increase in deaths.

Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

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