The media manipulation of the global discourse on the coronavirus vaccine started when Moderna in mid-2020 in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic and its massive publicity when joining the Nasdaq 100, its stock prices shooting up 9.3% in one morning.
Its continuing propaganda offensive reached its apex on its claim in November, with Pfizer, that its vaccine has achieved 94.5% effectivity. These claims are at best based on Phase III trials of up to 30,000 test volunteers.
Peter Doshi, professor of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and associate editor at the BMJ (British Medical Journal) had already warned in November 26 that “let’s be cautious and first see the full data”, but the Western Press and its captive Philippine media went to town with the claims and countless pseudo-intellectuals and ignoramuses echoed these claims without caveats.
Effectivity or Efficacy
The propaganda offensive of the US vaccine makers caught the more careful and modest, non-profit driven, pharmaceutical companies of other countries off-guard.
Vaccine effectiveness and efficacy are being confused as one, efficacy is a computational exercise of “a proportional reduction in disease attack rate between the unvaccinated and vaccinated calculated from the relative risk of disease among the vaccinated group = attack rate of vaccinated people”.
Professor Doshi at that time wrote, “Neither Moderna nor Pfizer have released any samples of written materials provided to patients, so it is unclear what, if any, instructions patients were given regarding the use of medicines to treat side effects following vaccination … Following administration of Ad26.COV2.S, fever, muscle aches and headache appear to be more common in younger adults and can be severe…. There may be much more complexity to the ‘95% effective’ announcement than meets the eye…”
China tested millions
While China’s vaccines had already been tried and tested on at least a million subjects among whom were front-liners, vulnerable sectors, the Chinese military and subsequently trials in Brazil, UAE, Indonesia and many other countries, Chinese pharmaceutical were more conservative in making extremely high claims. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was also compelled an effectivity rate starting at 92% then later 95%. China then announced its estimate of 90% effectivity of its vaccines.
Bio Pharma, the Indonesian state-owned vaccine maker in partnership with China’s Sinovac, reported that in its Phase III clinical trials reported that Sinovac’s Covid 19 vaccine has achieve 97% effectivity rate. But Sinovac clarified that the 97% instead represented the vaccine’s seroconversion rate—meaning the vaccine triggered antibodies in 97% of trial volunteers who received it. UAE in December report 86% effectivity of Chinese vaccines.
There are many complexities to the issue of vaccine effectivity but the global public discourse on this caused by massive US Big Pharma publicity campaign have led to the simplistic and propagandistic one-dimensional discussions that distort the picture and the real issues. There are complex particularities of vaccines to take into consideration, take the measles vaccine for example when first dose is given at 12-14 months of age versus 15 months a higher risk of measles infection occurs.
Flu vaccines are generally considered 60 to 70% effective, so for new vaccines to claim such high effectivity as is now being claimed merits really close scrutiny. The issue of overall effectivity will clarify over time as all the Covid 19 vaccines are tested in the massive global vaccination drives that will be conducted in the coming few months, and at this point in time it is apparent that competing vaccines will be used universally as every country scrambled for enough vaccine supplies.
Moderna and Pfizer “cold” facts
The two most prominent US vaccines have, however, a real problem for widespread distribution especially in less developed countries. Produced with the new mRNA method the vaccines require extremely low temperatures for preservation, particularly in transporting from country to counry.
The Moderna vaccine requires minus 20 degrees Centigrade while the Pfizer vaccine requires minus 70 degrees Centigrade of Antarctica winter temperatures.
Philippine proponents and media propagandists for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines such as Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Babes Romualdez and the usual media mainstream, pushed for 10 million doses with loans from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Didn’t they think of the exorbitant cost of transporting these already expensive vaccines at all?
Foreign Secretary Teddyboy Locsin says “somebody dropped the ball” and the deal failed, but we should thank that “somebody”.
While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines would cost an arm and a leg to store and transport, with the US Big Pharma companies scrambling to obtain special cold storage facilities from the only source that can supply them – China, the Chinese vaccines developed with the tired and tested classical method of attenuated or inactivated virus requires only 2 to 8 degrees centigrade for storage and last for up to three years in such normal medical or home refrigerator conditions.
Other than the cold storage problem of Moderna and Pfizer is the rate of side effects which apparently have not been considered by many comparisons of the different vaccines. Science magazine of the AAAS reports that “Public needs to prep for vaccine side effects as reports mount of severe symptoms suffered by some such as Luke Hutchison who volunteered for Moderna’s trial whose arm swelled up like a “goose egg… started shaking “ in 38.9 degree C fever. No such severe effects have been reported on the vaccines produced by the classical methods – so far.
Vaccine costs and prices
It is for this practicality that countries in Asia and other non-Western countries have preferred The Chinese vaccines from Sinovac, Sinopharm, Clover and others. The list of countries engaged with the Chinese vaccine producers and suppliers include: Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Morocco, Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Brunei and the rest of ASEAN, UAE, Africa. China has been accused of “vaccine diplomacy” but that could just as well be “vaccine charity”.
China’s President Xi Jinping has repeatedly declared that China’s vaccines will be “global public good” intended to be distributed to the poor amongst the world’s nations at cost. I look at that as a reflection and natural expression of China’s socialist and internationalist philosophy in the same manner as it envisions a “Community of Shared Future for Mankind”, a future free of fear from pandemics. Unlike the US Big Pharma which is clearly hankering like mad dogs to profit from the pandemic.
The cost of the different vaccines is another subject for speculation, such as a Rappler report a perplexed friend “Vibered” me sourced Rappler cites from Senator Angara’s office: Astrazeneca, P 610; Novarex, P 366; Pfizer, P 2,379; Moderna, P 3,904 – P 4,504; Sinovac, P 3,629.50; Gamaleya, P 1,220; COVAX Facility (UN linked), P 854. Private sources may be behind these prices and it would be well-advised to be careful about these quotations.
In October 2020 Brazil’s Sao Paolo governor Joao Doria announced its 46-million doses of Sinovac contract of $1.96 per dose, though freight costs are not included and the Chinese suppliers are expectedly reticent in giving details to the media as negotiations are usually kept low-keyed. We know that the Philippine government will be procuring vaccines from China, hence I would wait of the government-to-government talks in the Philippines before concluding anything about these prices.
Big Pharma corruption
Finally, the anti-China vaccines propaganda comes into full gear with Rappler, Inquirer, ABS-CBN et al “Sinovac bribery” reports, and why am I not surprised? This Chinese corruption meme is a regular trick in the anti-China information war bag of tricks. A trick that any party can also use against the US drug makers, such as the November 9, 2020 report from FIERCE Pharma reporting “Pfizer faces DOJO, SEC foreign bribery probes for China, Russia operations” and many such cases.
The report also reminds readers of other Pfizer cases under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) which forbids U.S. firms and individual from bribing foreign government officials, citing a $ 60-million settlement of Pfizer’s bribery in eight countries. A related report is linked, “Novartis inks settlements worth $ 347-millioon with DOJ, SEC over foreign doctor payments…” and there’ another on Bristol-Myers and its corruption violations.
The Sinovac bribery issue in the local media involves a fine of $83,000.00 or so, indictive of a minor crime probably for facilitation of documentation which t Chinese authorities investigated. Even the Washington Post reporting on this bribery case has said, “Sinovac has not been involved in safety scandals, and there is no evidence any of te vaccines approved in case involving bribery were faulty. The Post mentions “moral flexibility”, as if US Pharma isn’t acrobatic when it comes to morality.
Vaccine racism must stop
Vaccine Xenophobia and Sinophobia is extremely evident in Western media disseminations on the vaccine issues, China and other countries like Russia have been on the receiving end of a lot of misinformation and disinformation (while Cuba’s Soberana vaccines 1 and 2 have been ignored). The US has taken every facet of human life as a point of competition and conflict instead of cooperation and harmony of purpose – in this case the protection of human life and the human race.
We are used to the constant misinformation and disinformation operations of US and Western media’s “information wars” in cahoots with local Philippine mainstream media supported by US “foundation” Dollars.
We who try to constantly correct ad set aright the information picture also have to be constant in our response despite the modicum of financial resources. The Duterte government continues to keep a clear view of the issues and has stuck to the best Covid-19 vaccine, and that’s good news.
For additional insight into the ramifications of the pandemic and Western information war surrounding it, I urge readers to look out for the book by our SovereignPH.com editor Ado Paglinawan who has published a comprehensive research entitled “No vaccine for a Virus called Racism”. It summarizes the global experience of the Covid-19 pandemic and the volumes of misinformation and disinformation from the West about the origins and spread of the virus and its pandemic impact.
(Join: “Power Thinks” with Ka Mentong Laurel and guests: Every Wednesday 6pm Live on Global Talk News Radio (GTNR) on Facebook and Talk News TV on YouTube; and Every Sunday 8 to 10am on RP1 738 on your AM radio dial.)