Covid-158

Dan O'Heirity

Would You Take a Vaccine Made in China?

I wonder does anyone still remember the early days of the pandemic when China was pillaging the world for medical equipment and medical supplies whilst also sending defective equipment and supplies around the world in a bid to be lauded as helping out countries in crisis. Well, according to The Conversation, China has now produced a number of different Covid-19 vaccines and nearly a million doses of the vaccine produced by Sinovac have already been used in China. China has also sent large doses of the vaccine to Indonesia. Call me cynical but here’s what comes to my mind when I read about a Chinese vaccine. Profit first, poor quality control, and a lack of scientific rigour. To be fair, The Conversation reports that the clinical trials for these vaccines have been published in numerous academic journals which does speak to some scientific rigour. At the same time, The Conversation reports that, “The emergency approval for use of a number of the vaccines developed in China has come exceptionally early in the clinical trial process. This is likely to have raised concerns that the correct due diligence for safety isn’t being followed“. The Conversation also reports that the early rollout of the vaccine should be considered as a phase 3 laboratory trial rather than as ultimate confirmation of the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine. That said, phase 3 trials of the Sinovac vaccine are ongoing with trials being run in Indonesia, Turkey and Brazil. The Chinese firms Sinopharm, CanSino Biologics and Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical are also producing vaccines and each of the vaccines is in stage 3 of clinical trials.

Again, in order to produce a balanced piece of writing, China is not alone in moving quickly on approving vaccines for use in the general population. I reported yesterday that the United Kingdom is rolling out a vaccine in double quick time. As reported by The Guardian, the vaccine has been produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and it has been approved by the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Health care workers and the elderly will be amongst the first to receive the vaccine. In reading about the vaccine in The Guardian, I felt reasonably assured that appropriate quality control processes are in place for the rollout of the vaccine. For example, a dedicated team at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been conducting a “rolling review” of the clinical trial data as and when it has become available. Furthermore, there will be manufacturing and quality control assessments and plans have been put in place for the safe supply and distribution of the vaccine. Scientists from the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control will also conduct independent tests on batches of the vaccine to ensure they meet the expected safety and quality standards. Lastly, health workers will monitor the vaccine rollout and report any adverse reactions to the MHRA. In such cases, the MHRA will conduct a full investigation into what happened. To conclude, sure the UK vaccine is being rolled out at the same rate as the Chinese vaccine and sure the process has been a lot quicker than would normally be the case for a vaccine trial. However, I just feel more assured by the United Kingdom process than by the Chinese process.

The Trump Campaign Insanity Continues Unabated

I was in two minds about whether to write about Trump today because in many ways each day brings more of the same. Trump’s campaign launches legal challenges to the election results. These challenges are thrown out by the courts because they consist of nothing more than will allegations that are not supported by an evidence. Indeed, it has gotten to the point where any sane and rational individual would surely acknowledge that Trump has lost this election. And therein lies the problem. Trump is not sane and his supporters are not rational. They are driven by their emotions and not by their minds. So, to today’s story. As reported by The Guardian, Texas has filed a lawsuit, backed by Donald Trump seeking to overturn Biden’s victory. The lawsuit is directed at the states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and asks for the results to be overturned in these states because “changes to voting procedures removed protections against fraud and were unlawful when the reforms were made by officials in the four states or courts without the approval of the states’ legislatures“. On Thursday 10th December, 100 Republican members of the House filed an amicus brief with the court in support of the Texas lawsuit. According to the Legal Dictionary, an amicus brief – literary friend of the court – is a filing that “sides” with an action without being involved in the action. In other words, 100 Republicans are supporting the Texas lawsuit. Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, has said that, “The challenge here is an unprecedented one, without factual foundation or a valid legal basis“. We are back in the land of insanity and emotion driven decision making. Trump. You’ve lost. Get over it and move on.

The Irony of the Chinese Owning Australian Wineries

This year has seen a long running trade dispute between China and Australia with China imposing huge tariffs on Australian goods such as barley and wine. In some cases the tariffs on wine were up to 212%. To the irony. As reported by Australia News, 41 wineries in Australia are owned to one degree or another by Chinese companies. This makes me wonder whether Beijing slapped tariffs on all wine exports from Australia or just on wine from wineries that had no Chinese interest. The other point that comes to mind is that Australia has, once again, been economically lazy. Last year, wine exports to Chiba accounted for 36.7% of all wine export revenue in Australia. Basically China can hurt Australia with tariffs on wine because China accounts for such a large proportion of our exports. Unfortunately the same is true of a number of other Australian exports to China. There have been calls for Australians to boycott wines from the wineries that are owned to any degree by Chinese companies. Personally I’d be in favour of that action but, as always, the argument is more complex than I would wish. First off, we do not know the extent to which Chinese are involved in these wineries. For example, are we looking at nominal investment or are we looking at a controlling stake in our wineries. Or perhaps Chinese own some of these wineries outright. That fact would not surprise me. If owned outright then it is tempting to say that we should boycott those wineries. However, these wineries will be providing jobs for Australians and so boycotting them would ultimately hurt Australian families. I am reminded of an economic argument that I wrote about a few weeks back. The essence of the argument was to strategize with outcomes in mind rather than in terms of ideological differences driving strategy. The point was, I think, that we should look for a win-win. Me, I have a real urge just to say, “Fuck the Chinese”.

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