BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese state media outlets have run a series of articles criticising Western COVID-19 vaccines in the past week, including Pfizer’s, while touting China-made vaccines as safer and more accessible.
The reports have come as China’s vaccines, which are being rolled out to countries including Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey, have faced criticism in the West for insufficient data disclosure.
The Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, has published more than ten reports in the past week critical of vaccines and inoculation schemes in the West.
About half of them have referred to reported deaths of some highly frail patients in Norway after being inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine developed Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.
In a Jan. 15 editorial, the Global Times accused mainstream U.S. and British news outlets of “deliberately downplaying the deaths” and “using propaganda power to promote the Pfizer vaccine and smearing Chinese vaccines.”
“Those major Western media will immediately hype any unfavourable information about Chinese vaccines and try to amplify their impact on public psychology,” it said.
Norwegian authorities have not established a causal link between the deaths and vaccination and said on Jan. 18 they were not changing their policy on using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Liu Xin, an anchor with CGTN, China’s English-language state TV channel, on Jan. 16 tweeted screenshots of an unverified report of 10 deaths after vaccinations in Germany.
“Can’t independently verify but it’s concerning,” she tweeted. “What about following it up? Hello??? @BBCWorld @CNN @AP @Reuters.”
A Global Times report on Tuesday cited Chinese experts saying Australia should consider halting regulatory procedures for Pfizer’s vaccine until the investigation of the deaths is over.
It also said Australia should purchase Chinese-developed vaccines, “which are relatively safer due to their mature technology”.
The Global Times has also argued that Chinese vaccines are cheaper and easier to transport, and portrayed Pfizer as an unreliable supplier, sacrificing need in other countries to prioritise supply for the United States.
“Reports of adverse events outside of clinical studies are a very important component to our pharmacovigilance activities,” a Pfizer representative said in an email.
The U.S. drugmaker said last week it was temporarily slowing supplies of its COVID-19 vaccine to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output.
Final stage clinical trials showed the vaccine was 95% effective, with no major safety concerns.
(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom and Yew Lun Tian. Editing by Mark Potter and Louise Heavens)