• By The Financial District


The developed world isn’t just hoarding COVID vaccines. It’s hoarding the best COVID vaccines. And that has spurred some developing countries to make do with Russian and Chinese shots that aren’t as thoroughly tested or as effective as the leading jabs, David Axe wrote in an analysis for The Daily Beast.

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This uneven distribution of the best vaccine underscores a huge and growing equity problem as the world scrambles to contain the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Vaccine inequity isn’t just about the quantity of shots—it’s about quality, too. It also ensures that COVID could ravage the world, all because many countries have to rely on ineffective vaccines produced by China and Russia.

At least 50 countries, including many in Latin America, are giving out Sputnik V. India, which is still suffering through a devastating surge in COVID cases, has inked a deal for nearly 400 million doses of the Russian vaccine.

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Big orders for Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Sputnik V jabs make sense when you consider the restrictions many Western countries have placed on their own locally-developed vaccines.

The US government requires Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson’s American factories to fill huge domestic orders before exporting doses. The British government added clauses to its vaccine contracts that require firms to make up for shortages in the UK by diverting doses from other countries.

The more rich countries hoard the best vaccine, the more pressure poor countries will be under to take chances with the second-best vaccines. With urging from the Chinese government, China’s pharmaceutical industry developed COVID vaccines at a mad sprint.

State-owned pharma Sinopharm and private firm Sinovac, both based in Beijing, quickly developed two-dose vaccines using traditional “inactivated-virus” technology, which essentially injects dead virus in a person in order to stimulate their immune system.

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China approved its first inactivated-virus vaccine way back in June. Russia was hot on China’s heels. The government-run Gamaleya Institute in Moscow modified two common adenoviruses to produce the two-dose Sputnik V vaccine. Mass-production started in August.

The best Western vaccines use messenger-RNA tech that includes no actual virus, and instead delivers genetic information to a person’s immune system, teaching it how to fight the pathogen. It took time for developers to get the mRNA vaccines right.


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