And now, a new hurdle: a vaccine is good, but not great.
Days after officials here announced that the vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinovac and tested on 12,000 Brazilians was 78 percent effective in protecting against moderate to severe cases of covidium-19, they clarified this week that its degree of efficacy in it all cases was only 50.4 percent. This exceeds the threshold set by the World Health Organization, but only barely.
The disgusting results are a stumbling block not only for Brazil, where more people have died from the virus than anywhere else outside the United States, but for countries everywhere that have pinned their hopes on a very cheap, easily portable, and readily available vaccine. mass production. He also re-clarified the role of global inequality in the spread of the disease.
While richer countries introduce vaccines with efficacy rates greater than 90 percent, poorer countries have been left with fewer opportunities. As a result, health analysts warn, the developing world is likely to deal with the coronavirus for much longer than rich countries.
Brazil is not in a country where it can compete with very rich countries to buy vaccines like those from Pfizer and Moderna, said Natlia Pasternak Taschner, a scientist who advises health authorities here on vaccine distribution. And then having the capacity to transport, implement and maintain them at the required low temperatures, we can not do it as a developing country.
Sinovac has defended its vaccine, called CoronaVac, saying it is effective in preventing severe symptoms and that its efficacy rate may be higher for the general population than for the medical staff who were its trial participants. here.
The clinical trial population in Brazil is relatively special, the company said in a statement. Medical workers are not only at the highest risk for disease infection, but are also at the highest risk for disease transmission.
Brazil and other countries plan to use the vaccine as soon as possible. Turkey said Wednesday it had given the CoronaVac emergency authorization. Indonesian President Joko Widodo appeared on television to receive the country’s first dose.
Turkey and Indonesia reported dramatically different efficiency levels for CoronaVac 91 per cent and 65 per cent based on studies scientists say were too small to be conclusive.
Sinovac said some of the changes could be attributed to changes in clinical trial installations between countries. The Indonesia trial was conducted on members of the general public, not medical workers.
However, it is unusual for efficacy to fluctuate so widely in evidence, said Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at Grossman School of Medicine at New York University.
The difference is so big that you start to ask yourself: Did they administer them properly? Tha Caplan.
The WHO has long warned of the difficulties facing developing countries in trying to secure a vaccine quickly. In his New Year’s speech, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization had provided 2 billion doses of promising vaccines but urgently needed $ 4 billion to buy enough doses for low-income and low-income countries. low.
To protect the world, we must ensure that all people at risk everywhere not just in countries that can afford vaccines are immunized, he said.
The global war has played with pain in Brazil, where the disease has been devastating and Bolsonaro has encouraged Brazilians to go on with their lives. In the absence of federal leadership, governors and mayors have established a set of conflicting guidelines and procedures.
In the state of So Paulo, where more than 48,000 people have died from covid-19, officials have tried to secure the Sinovac vaccine themselves, setting up large-scale clinical trials through the Butantan Institute in So Paulo.
Politics quickly jeopardized efforts.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly insulted So Paulo Governor Joo Doria, a bitter political rival, over his ambitious vaccination plans, undermining confidence in the vaccine. The president, who has stated he will not get the vaccine, has warned Brazilians that they take it at their own risk.
If you turn into an alligator, your problem is, Bolsonaro said. If you go back to Superman, keep a beard for some women, or a man starts talking at a high altitude, [the drugmakers] will have nothing to do with it. It has raised the possibility of requiring people to sign waivers before being injected.
Confidence in vaccines in Brazil has declined. Surveys last year found that 97 percent of Brazilians believed in the importance of vaccinating children. But now only 72 percent of people in the cities of Rio and So Paulo say they intend to get the coronavirus vaccine.
The Brazilians have expressed particular distrust of CoronaVac, which Bolsonaro supporters have attacked with racist and xenophobic language.
But instead of calming those concerns, officials at So Paulo seem to have exacerbated them. The publication of data from clinical trials in Brazil has been consistently delayed in recent weeks. Doria, who is widely believed to be planning a run for the presidency in 2022, made bold promises that he has failed or tried to keep. And when officials finally released numbers on CoronaVac, they were extremely rare, not to mention antibodies, and were later tarnished from the fullest view.
Last week, officials said the vaccine was 100 percent effective in protecting against deaths and hospitalizations. They said it was 78 percent effective in protecting against serious infections. Doria, for his part, boasted in a statement that it was 78 to 100 percent effective against covid-19.
But this week, Bhutanese officials, under increasing pressure for more transparency, acknowledged that the efficiency level dropped to 50 percent when accounted for by patients with very mild symptoms.
Mistakes in communication have taken a situation that was already complicated and made it much more complicated, said Joo Henrique Rafael Junior, a researcher at So Paulo University who pursues vaccine-related misinformation. Disinformation groups, he said, are now using it to distort the picture and make their own confession.
Bhutan did not respond to a request for comment.
Doria defended the vaccine. Well-known scientists expressed their satisfaction with the presentation of clinical studies on the safety and efficacy of the Butantan vaccine, he said in a statement. The call of science is for the end of polarization and the beginning of vaccination.
But at the end of the vaccination it will take longer to arrive with a vaccine that only works half the time, even if it mainly protects people from severe reactions to the virus.
To really achieve herd immunity, we would have to vaccinate almost everyone, said Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist at Pelotas Federal University. If you have a vaccine that is 50 percent effective, you need full coverage to stop the virus from circulating. There is no difference for error.
Dou reported from Detroit. Helosa Traiano in Rio de Janeiro, Kareem Fahim in Istanbul and Lyric Li in Seoul contributed to this report.
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