Polls reveal a range of public fears in Latin America about the various COVID-19 vaccines. Yet the one prompting the most concerns are the Chinese vaccine Coronavac, created by the firm Biotech Sinovac.
In a recent poll by Activa Research 51.4% of respondents openly admitted to distrusting that vaccine, with only 24% expressing confidence. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine had a 40.9% distrust rate and a 31.3% trust rate. Several factors are at play in the negative perceptions of Coronavac. There is for example the circulation of scientific misinformation among the public and a good deal of fake news used to magnify political tensions and fuel incendiary talk between competing states.
This contrast in trust levels between Western and Chinese vaccines may also be questioned considering that the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use mRNA, a new and promising technology that is arguably still in development, while Sinovac uses classic vaccine technology, tried and tested over a century.
Chinese products have had to undertake a lengthy validation process before being accepted as high-quality by health officials in the region and around the world. We should also consider China's notable advances in scientific research, the extremely high level of training given to professionals there and development of first-generation infrastructures for manufacturing sophisticated, innovative, high-tech products. These include a vaccine that has a 78% efficacy rate of avoiding serious illness in case of infection.
Evidently China is no longer worthy of the would-be "cheap'" Made in China label, and can rightly boast that it is the creator of high-quality products across numerous sectors.
While the country defines itself as a communist state, it has become an efficient model of capitalism, the entrepreneurial spirit and of tech startups and enterprises. Biotech Sinovac began that way. It is of little use then to continue to view China as a rickety, old communist state and insist on overlooking its advances in medical, computing and space technologies.
Perhaps to change our view of the Chinese vaccine, we could just ditch our stereotypes.
*The authors are Beijing-based lawyers.
See more from Culture / Society here