Why the EU does not buy Chinese vaccines against corona

It seems strongly that the Dutch will be able to be vaccinated against corona next year. What vaccine is not yet known, but the EU has already made deals for six potential vaccines and a seventh will probably follow.

These are all developed and produced in Europe or in the USA. However, in China, the development of vaccines is also rapid. Four potential vaccines have ended up there in the final phase of study, and even people are being vaccinated. Why don‘t we put those vaccines on too?

Classic vaccines

First of all, this has to do with the type of vaccine being developed in China. Most Chinese candidate vaccines are classical vaccines. That is, they use inactivated viruses, from the infection from which it must protect.

Such vaccines have a number of significant drawbacks, says Professor of Immunology Marjolein van Egmond of the Amsterdam UMC: โ€œIf something goes wrong in making the virus inactive, someone can get sick with the vaccine. In the Western world, because of safety, we now prefer vaccines that do not contain complete dangerous viruses.โ€

A vaccine has rarely been developed as quickly as against Corona.Ceitop3 explains whether it is safe:

Production capacity

Also, large-scale production of such a vaccine can take a while, says Professor of Vaccinology Anke Huckriede of the UMCG: โ€œYou are growing a dangerous virus, so that must be done in well-protected locations. You don’t want the virus to escape. Those safety measures limit production capacity.

There is also a Chinese vaccine that works with a so-called vector. That is a cold virus, in this case an adenovirus, to which a piece of genetic material from the SARS-COV-2 virus has been added. โ€œBut the cold virus that the Chinese use for this is relatively common here,โ€ says Huckriede. โ€œOur immune system could have cleared that virus before it could trigger the production of antibodies to SARS-COV-2.โ€ A number of vaccines ordered by the EU also work with adenoviruses, but not the same as in China.

Easier to store

The Chinese vaccines also offer benefits. โ€œDeveloping the vaccine is not rocket science,โ€ says Van Egmond. โ€œThe method is known, you have the least to develop it.โ€ And it’s a lot easier to shelf life than the RNA vaccines in particular. Pfizer‘s vaccine, which became known to be 90 percent effective this week, is such an RNA vaccine.

Those vaccines should be stored at a temperature of -70 degrees Celsius. Special freezers are needed for this. โ€œIn the west, we have that infrastructure or we can build it up relatively quickly,โ€ says Van Egmond. โ€œBut in large parts of the rest of the world, that is not true. China is so much bigger than the Netherlands, with very remote parts. The same applies to Africa and South America. Then I can imagine that you opt for a vaccine that is better shelf life under less ideal conditions.โ€

Production in EU

In doing so, the EU has set certain conditions for concluding purchase agreements with manufacturers of coronavaccins. In addition to quality requirements, this includes the fact that part of the production takes place in the EU, is included in the vaccination strategy of the European Commission.

This means ensuring that the EU can offer its own population a vaccine as soon as possible once the authorities have approved a vaccine. For example, Pfizer vaccines are produced in Belgium and Germany. Anke Huckriede: โ€œChina will probably only be able to produce enough vaccines for their own markets and those of their allies by 2021.โ€

These are the vaccines served by the European Union. You can also see the number of vaccines available in the Netherlands with good results:

Trust is extremely important

In addition to the practical objections, there is something else to play with. โ€œPeople have already been vaccinated in China while the Phase 3 study has not yet been completed,โ€ says Marjolein van Egmond. โ€œThat’s a no go area here.โ€

โ€œ Maybe these vaccines work very well,โ€ says law philosopher Roland Pierik at the University of Amsterdam. He is a member of the Vaccination Committee of the Health Council. โ€œBut if you are going to vaccinate on a large scale, trust of the population in the vaccine is extremely important.โ€ Pierik therefore believes that speed of introduction is secondary to safety when purchasing a vaccine.

Purchasing a vaccine that is already being used while it is not yet clear what the side effects are, like the Chinese, would undermine confidence, says Pierik: โ€œI estimate that a large part of the Dutch population will be very willing to get vaccinated against corona, because people want to get rid of all measures and return to the old normal. But then you have to wait for a vaccine to be completelyhas been well studied and has been assessed as safe and effective by the Board for Evaluation of Medicines.โ€