Jan 7, 2021 - World

Countries begin to line up for Chinese and Russian vaccines

Data: Axios research; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Axios research; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Serbia joined Argentina, Belarus and Russia this week to be among the first countries to approve and administer Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

The big picture: Russia has blazed its own course in the vaccine race, relying entirely on a single, state-funded vaccine that was given emergency authorization before much data was available about its effectiveness.

  • The vaccine's developers say it has a 91% efficacy rate, though that's yet to be confirmed by a medical journal or international regulator.

Now, Russia is seeking to vaccinate its population while also exporting doses around the world. The government says 1 million Russians have been vaccinated, but it has fallen far behind the number of doses it promised to deliver to cities and regions by now, per the WSJ.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that she is open to manufacturing doses of the vaccine in Germany, if it's approved by EU health regulators.
  • But a Hungarian government spokesman said last week that Hungary was no longer planning to rely on the Sputnik vaccine due to Russia's "inadequate manufacturing capacity" — instead focusing on vaccines provided by the EU and sourced from another world power: China.

The state of play: Health regulators in China recently approved the country's first homegrown vaccine, developed by the state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, for general use.

  • The UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan and Morocco are among those slated to receive Sinopharm doses, while Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil have preordered a vaccine developed by another Chinese company called Sinovac Biotech.
  • Regulators in Brazil announced Thursday that the Sinovac vaccine is 78% effective. Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79% effective, based on preliminary data.

What to watch: If China's vaccines prove effective — and the country can manufacture sufficient quantities to cover domestic needs and significant exports to the developing world — that could markedly improve the outlook for global vaccination in the coming years. It could also offer China a significant soft power boost.

  • Part of the reason that so many countries are lining up for doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is that the more expensive Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are bound almost exclusively for the rich world.

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