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You Can Now Get a COVID-19 Vaccine in China. That Might Not Be a Good Thing

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A staff member works during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. Credit – Wang Zhao–AFP/Getty Images

Li Shurui didn’t hesitate. Faced with putting his life on hold indefinitely or the risk of catching COVID-19 by returning to university in the U.K., the 22-year-old business student decided to roll up his sleeve and receive an experimental coronavirus vaccine.

Two injections made by Beijing Kexing Biological cost 2,000 rmb ($300) at the private Taihe Hospital in the Chinese capital. The treatment still hasn’t passed final (Stage 3) clinical trials but is already being offered to the public on a first come, first served basis. Anyone can turn up, pay their money and get the jab. Li says hundreds were queuing to get immunized at the same time as him.

“I’m a little worried about side effects but more worried catching the virus overseas,” Li tells TIME. “But I haven’t had any problems from the jabs so far.”

It’s not just the Kexing vaccine on offer in China. An unofficial vaccine rollout is gathering pace despite the warnings of international public health experts. In September, state-owned SinoPharm revealed that hundreds of thousands of Chinese had already taken its experimental COVID-19 vaccines as part of a state initiative to protect frontline health workers and officials traveling to high-risk nations. In the eastern manufacturing hub of Yiwu this week, hundreds of people queued for a $60 dose of the CoronaVac vaccine made by private firm SinoVac.

Read more: ‘We Will Share Our Vaccine with the World.’ Inside the Chinese Biotech Firm Leading the Fight Against COVID-19

“This is insane,” Adam Kamradt-Scott, associate professor specializing in global health security at the University of Sydney, says of China’s gung-ho vaccine rollout. “It is just unsound public health practice. We have previous examples of where vaccines that have not gone through sufficient clinical trials have demonstrated adverse reactions with long-term health consequences.”

As the coronavirus pandemic approaches its 11th month, with over 40 million cases and 1.1 million deaths globally, longing for a miracle cure becomes more desperate. But the consequences of a vaccine misstep could also be dire. In 1976, a rushed campaign to immunize millions of Americans against swine flu subsequently resulted in a small proportion developing chronic fatigue syndrome and helped spark the modern anti-vaxxer movement. Handing out a pre-approval vaccine without sufficient monitoring of efficacy and health of participants risks stoking public misinformation.

Read more: How an Election-Year Vaccine Rollout in 1976 Backfired

What’s more, since COVID-19 cases are so low in China, Stage 3 trials—when the vaccine is given thousands to see how many become infected, compared with volunteers who received a placebo—can only be conducted overseas. There have also not been any “challenge” trials where scientists deliberately expose vaccinated volunteers to the virus to test immunity. (Although controversial,

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro rejects coronavirus vaccine from China

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday rejected the announced purchase of 46 million doses of a potential vaccine against the coronavirus being developed by a Chinese company and tested in a state governed by a political rival, prompting some to question if he was allowing politics to steer public health decisions.

“The Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig,” Bolsonaro said on his social media channels, adding that the vaccine has not yet completed testing, which is the case with all potential vaccines for the virus. “My decision is to not purchase such a vaccine.”

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello had announced the purchase Tuesday in a meeting with Sao Paulo Gov. João Doria, a foe of Bolsonaro’s whose state is participating in the vaccine’s development through its Butantan Institute. The cost of the acquisition was estimated at 2 billion reais ($360 million).

“Butantan’s vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” Pazuello said.


A Brazilian Health Ministry document issued Monday and shared by Sao Paulo’s government Wednesday confirmed that the ministry had put in writing its intention to buy the doses of the “Butantan Vaccine-Sinovac/Covid-19” for an estimated price of $10.30 each.

The document made explicit the purchase was contingent upon the health regulator’s approval. Bolsonaro told journalists that protocol will be canceled.

Claudio Couto, a political science professor at Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university, felt the president’s move had little to do with the virus and was more a way to hurt Doria, who is widely cited as a likely challenger to Bolsonaro’s 2022 reelection bid.

“His concern is to be a strong candidate for reelection, and that often means giving trouble to his adversaries,” Couto said.

Bolsonaro and Doria have had an adversarial relationship since the start of the pandemic, with each taking opposite stances regarding stay-at-home recommendations and restrictions on activity. The governor, whose state is Brazil’s most populous, heeded the counsel of public health experts and adopted such measures, which the president blasted, arguing the economic fallout could kill more than the disease.

Brazil has confirmed more than 153,000 deaths from COVID-19, the second most in the world, behind only the U.S. The South American nation has also reported 5.2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus infections, the world’s third highest tally.

“It isn’t ideology, it isn’t politics, and it isn’t the electoral process that saves. It is the vaccine,” Doria told reporters in the national capital, Brasilia.

During a brief news conference in the Sao Paulo countryside, Bolsonaro shot back at Doria, accusing the governor of playing politics by hurrying out a vaccine in an effort to buoy his popularity. The president also accused his adversaries, including Doria, of “promoting a narrative of terrorism since the start of the pandemic.”

Brazil has a long tradition of immunization programs. The South American country has a struggling, but universal public health care system, that has been key to stopping outbreaks of measles, yellow fever and other diseases.

Bolsonaro has said no one will be forced to

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Live coronavirus found on frozen food packaging in China

Chinese health authorities investigating a recent Covid-19 outbreak say they have discovered live coronavirus on frozen food packaging, a finding that suggests the virus can survive in cold supply chains.



a display in a store filled with lots of food: Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA

On Saturday the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it had found traces of live Covid-19 on the outer packing of frozen cod in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao, marking the first time live coronavirus has been detected on the outside of refrigerated goods. Researchers were investigating the source of a recent cluster of cases linked to a hospital in Qingdao.



a bunch of items that are on display in a store: Frozen food in a store in Beijing.


© Photograph: Roman Pilipey/EPA
Frozen food in a store in Beijing.

Genetic traces have previously been found in samples of frozen food but no living virus has been isolated before. “It has been confirmed that contact with outer packaging contaminated by the new coronavirus can cause infection,” the agency said in a statement on its website, without specifying where the batch of frozen food came from.

China, which until the Qingdao outbreak had recorded no new local cases in 55 days, has been one of few countries to point to possible transmission through frozen food. When Beijing had a second outbreak in June after the virus had been largely contained, officials suggested the new cluster could have come from imported salmon.

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said there has been no evidence that “handling food or consuming food is associated with Covid-19”. New Zealand ruled out the possibility that one of its first infections happened at a cold storage facility.

In August China increased inspection requirements for imports of frozen products after traces of the virus were found on frozen chicken wings from Brazil. Researchers have also detected the virus on imported shrimp and other frozen seafood.

The CDC did not say whether the outbreak in Qingdao was caused by the frozen food packaging. The outbreak, the first locally transmitted cases in almost two months, was traced back to two dock workers initially diagnosed as asymptomatic, who are believed to have infected 12 other people at a hospital.

It was not clear whether the dock workers contracted the virus from the packaging of frozen food. Still, the CDC warned those handling frozen products not to have direct contact with the goods.

The CDC said there had been no cases of consumers contracting the virus, and such a risk was low. But some residents have begun calling for a temporary ban on frozen food imports.

The CDC said that from a total of 2.98 million samples of food packaging, researchers found 22 samples that tested positive.

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China beefs up laws to handle epidemics, protect whistleblowers

China has passed a new law to improve its handling of disease outbreaks — including protecting whistleblowers — following a cascade of criticism over its coronavirus response and accusations of an early cover-up.

The new biosecurity law, approved by lawmakers on Saturday, flags the right to report “acts that endanger biosecurity” and calls for risk prevention systems, ranging from active monitoring to emergency plans.

It takes effect from April 15 next year.

“Any work unit or individual has the right to report acts that endanger biosecurity,” the regulation said.

“When a report is required according to the law, no work unit or individual shall conceal (it)… or hinder others from making a report,” it added on infectious diseases and epidemics.

China’s approval of the law comes in the face of Western criticism on the coronavirus, over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak and silenced early whistleblowers.

But China has been trying to reshape this narrative, with authorities seeking instead to model the country as a vanguard in the pandemic fight.

Although doctor Li Wenliang who alerted colleagues to the new coronavirus in late December was at first reprimanded, a national outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero.

President Xi Jinping in February raised the need to speed up establishing the biosecurity law, urging for reforms of mechanisms to prevent major outbreaks.

Under the new law, those who conceal information, omit making reports or prevent others from reporting infectious diseases could be given warnings or suspended.

The new law also calls for systems including to regularly monitor biosafety risks, and to trace the origins of incidents.

Disease prevention agencies are also to help predict the occurrence and prevalence of emerging diseases. 

Based on these predictions, authorities should announce warnings and adopt prevention measures.

Although Beijing established an information system after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that allowed for real-time reports of outbreaks, provincial authorities came under fire during the coronavirus outbreak for perceived incompetence, including delays in announcing the public health emergency.

The new biosecurity law also takes aim at the management of research facilities, flagging the need for emergency plans for biosafety incidents.

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China Passes Biosecurity Law to Prevent Infectious Diseases | World News

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s top legislative body passed a new biosecurity law aimed at preventing and managing infectious diseases, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Saturday.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted to adopt the law on Saturday, according to Xinhua, and it would come into effect on April 15, 2021.

The law would establish systems for biosecurity risk prevention and control, including risk monitoring and early warning, risk investigation and assessment, and information sharing.

It would also have provisions to prevent and respond to specific biosecurity risks, including major emerging infectious diseases, epidemic and sudden outbreaks, and biotechnology research, development and application, reported Xinhua.

China had announced in May that it aimed to fast-track the passing of the biosecurity law by year-end, following the global coronavirus outbreak which was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

China has managed to nearly stamp out domestic transmissions of the coronavirus following aggressive measures to curb its spread. New infections detected last week in the eastern coastal city of Qingdao however ended China’s run of about two months without reporting a local case.

China’s health commission last reported 13 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Oct. 17, bringing the mainland’s total number of confirmed cases to 85,672.

(Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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The Latest: China city finds no new cases after testing 11M

BEIJING — Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China, has completed coronavirus testing for its 11 million residents following an outbreak and found no new infections so far.

As of Friday, the 10.9 million samples came back negative.

Xue Qingguo, Qingdao’s deputy mayor, told state broadcaster CCTV that the risk of community transmission “is basically eliminated.”

The citywide testing was ordered after 13 people were infected in China’s first locally transmitted cases in over two months.

The source of the outbreak was traced to two dock workers who had tested positive for the virus in September but did not exhibit any symptoms at first. They had visited a hospital in Qingdao and were sent to a CAT scan room, which was not disinfected properly afterward and led to the infection of other patients, according to health officials.

Health Commission Director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of Qingdao’s thoracic hospital to which the cases have been linked, have been placed under investigation in connection with the outbreak.

On Saturday, the National Health Commission reported 13 new imported cases. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 85,659 confirmed cases.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Virus surges in key battleground states as election nears

— White House puts ‘politicals’ at CDC to try to control info

— UK’s Johnson threatens to impose restrictions on Manchester

— Belgium will tighten coronavirus restrictions from Monday in an effort to hold the disease in check. The new measures include a night-time curfew and the closure of cafes, bars and restaurants for a month.

— Doctors are warning that Europe is at a turning point as the coronavirus surges back across the continent, including among vulnerable people, and governments try to impose restrictions without locking whole economies down.

— Hundreds of Argentine flags dotted the sand of a beach at the Mar del Plata resort, a poignant memorial to the victims of the novel coronavirus in one of this South American country’s virus hot spots.

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— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

NEW DELHI — India reported 62,212 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to more than 7.4 million and continuing a downward trend.

The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 837 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 112,998.

The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36% of total fatalities.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month.

But some experts say India’s figures may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure. India is also relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season

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