By Rigoberto Tiglao
The worst fake news, because it clothes itself in half-truths, is that which maliciously does not report information or newer data essential to establishing the facts. This is exactly the case in the British Economist magazine’s April 15 “Daily Chart” section, the least trusted of this magazine’s sections since it often simplifies things to fit into its charts.
The Economist article claimed: “Phase-three trials yielded an efficacy rate (for the Chinese vaccine Sinovac) of just 50.7 percent.” The article’s title made it a tabloid piece: “In clinical and realworld trials, China’s Sinovac underperforms.” The clear message: Sinovac doesn’t work; avoid it.
Unfortunately, it is Sinovac that has been, and will likely be, the most widely available vaccine in this country as the US and other Western nations have hoarded and cornered the supply of the vaccines produced in their soil. As such this Economist fake news is so despicable.
That 50.7-figure was based on the trials by the maker Sinopharm in Brazil in December 2020. The Economist, in effect, published fake news since it didn’t report the findings of the trials undertaken roughly at the same time, but in Turkey, in which the efficacy rate was found to be 91.3 percent. This was reported all over the world, including the New York Times as shown in the accompanying image.
The British news agency Reuters (and several other news outlets) reported last March 2 that another study in Turkey based on 10,216 participants showed an efficacy rate of 83.5 percent, lower than the 91.3 percent that the Chinese reported.
But this is better or at par with the efficacies for the AstraZeneca’s 76 percent and Johnson & Johnson’s 68 percent. The Economist though didn’t report those figures, which were way above the World Health Organization’s minimum 50-percent efficacy requirement for vaccines.
A network error occurred while fetching the HLS video.
A Turkish expert on vaccines explained that the huge difference in Turkey’s 91.3-percent efficacy results compared to Brazil’s 50.7 percent is due to the fact that the Turkish subjects were from the general population as reported in the Chinese study itself.
The participants for the Brazil trial, on the other hand, were from health care professionals who worked daily in direct contact with Covid-19 cases and therefore had much more exposure to the virus than that general population.
That the Economist article was written with malice is also obvious in that it didn’t explain what it reported as Sinovac’s “efficacy rate” for Brazil of 50.7 percent.
This figure refers to the rate for asymptomatic patients. For those who were hospitalized, had severe symptoms or died due to Covid-19, the efficacy was 100 percent while those for symptomatic cases who need medical treatment was 83.8 percent.
This means that 100 percent of those who took Sinovac were not hospitalized, did not have severe symptoms or did not die from Covid-19. However, 16 percent (100 minus 83.8) who were vaccinated still got the virus, although in a mild form that required some medical treatment but didn’t require hospitalization. Some 49.3 percent of those vaccinated were infected but didn’t get sick or were “asymptomatic.”
Nikkei Asia also reported on April 13 that Turkey had announced that Sinovac was “significantly effective after analyzing results from the inoculation of 7.5 million of its people.” Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, who took the jab shortly after the vaccine was granted emergency authorization, reported that “the Covid-19 positive case ratio for people aged 65 and above has dropped to 8.2 percent from 17.7 percent.” That means 91.8 percent of this age group who got vaccinated didn’t get Covid-19 at all. For those who still got Covid, only 31 percent needed to be hospitalized, from the 57 percent if they were not vaccinated with Sinovac.
In fact, according to the New York Times report (see image), Sinovac’s 91.3-percent efficacy found in the Turkey trials would make its one of the most effective vaccines among those currently being distributed now.
The silver lining, as it were, though of that Economist fake news is this: Sinovac, as well as the other vaccines, do not automatically immune you 100 percent from Covid-19. There is still a chance you’ll be in the 28 percent (Johnson & Johnson), 8.7 percent (Sinovac) or 4 percent (Novovax) who get vaccinated but who would still be infected by Covid-19.
The Economist didn’t report these figures, of course, as it would have obviously revealed its report was fake news.
While I dare not judge the risks of other vaccines, as I trust science, if asked to choose between Sinovac and say AstraZeneca (whose efficacy rate is 76.2, lower than the former’s 83 percent, I’d take the Chinese vaccine in a moment.
This is because AstraZeneca, the Pfizer-BioNTech as well as the Moderna vaccines involve the very new technology of manipulation of Covid-19’s genes to provoke the body’s immune response. I still can’t get over my fear whenever I hear “genetic manipulation.”
Sinovac on the other hand uses the old-technology of injecting weakened coronaviruses or coronaviruses that have been killed with chemicals to safely provoke the body’s immune response. For details, check out the New York Times’ special section “Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker.”
The columnist who republished that fake Economist news prefaced his piece: “I am professionally obligated to report to readers my discovery that the Economist…” What sickening, self-congratulating melodrama.
He should just have the minimum requirements for a journalist, which is not to be so gullible as to believe every article you read if it confirms your biases. It is time to retire if you find it a chore to fact-check things you read, and to get other views.
This writer has crossed the red line — twice — for responsible journalism because of his delirious animosity toward China. He republished a false article that could lead Filipinos to refuse to be vaccinated with the most widely available vaccine now, leaving them unprotected, and therefore vulnerable to a pandemic which could kill them, or further spread the virus around.
Two weeks ago, he republished a preposterous fake news from a much more unreliable and much more anti-China publication which was titled: “Shocking report on Sinovac vaccinations: Increased Covid cases after using vaccine.” That piece was first published by Epoch Times, a far-right paper affiliated with the Falun Gong fanatic sect.
This newspaper’s integrity will continue to suffer if it keeps on publishing such regurgitated garbage.