Japan should consider importing Chinese vaccines: Japanese expert
Published: Jan 15, 2021 09:45 PM

Sinopharm vaccine File photo:VCG

A Japanese medical expert has said that Japan should consider importing Chinese vaccines instead of only Western-made COVID-19 vaccines, as there have been safety concerns over the mRNA-based Pfizer vaccine recently following the deaths of 23 elderly Norwegian people who received it. 

Pfizer's vaccine is associated with a strong inflammatory response, and people with weaker health conditions, such as those aged over 80, must take it with “considerable caution,” Masahiro Kami, a physician and head of the nonprofit Medical Governance Research Institute, told the Global Times on Friday. 

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech have clinched a deal with Japan to supply 120 million doses of vaccine, enough for 60 million people, by the end of June 2021, media reports said. Japan has a population of about 126 million. 

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on January 4 that the country is planning to start its inoculation campaign by late February.

Wang Bin, an official from China’s National Health Commission, told the media on Wednesday that China has administered over 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses since December 15, with no adverse reactions found.

“China moves fast and is a symbol of ‘youth,’” Kami said, noting that Japan’s vaccination campaign is starting too late, and it may not be until after April that the public can get vaccinated.

Japan, perhaps due to regional rivalry has not considered the Chinese vaccine as an option so far, resulting in its public inoculation schedule lagging behind, Kami said, adding that Japan should consider importing Chinese vaccines to have an extra choice. 

In response to a question from Japanese media outlet Kyodo News on Chinese vaccines’ advantages, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a media briefing on Friday that the Chinese vaccines are safe and effective. In addition, China's vaccines do not need ultra-low temperature cold chain storage and transportation, which is a huge advantage for most countries, especially developing countries.

“Vaccination is the most powerful weapon to control the pandemic. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines. Fourteen Chinese vaccines have entered clinical trials, and five have entered phase III clinical trials, which have been highly recognized by the WHO and other countries,” Zhao said. 

At least 17 countries have purchased COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese companies including Sinovac, Sinopharm and Cansino. Turkish President Recep Erdogan received a first dose of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac on Thursday.

China has pledged to make a contribution to the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries as a global public good once the new vaccine is developed and put into use, Zhao said. 

Japan reported 6,594 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to over 311,000.