Qualms vs Sinovac jab due to lack of research, transparency not ‘sinophobia’

March 2, 2021 - 2:49 PM
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A worker unloads a box of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a Chinese military aircraft at Villamor Air Base in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, February 28, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. and some Filipinos over the weekend accused the critics of President Rodrigo Duterte of being “sinophobic” or harboring anti-Chinese sentiments amid their opposition against China-made vaccines.

Since last week, some Filipinos, especially members of the medical community, have expressed their opposition to be inoculated with vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical companies Sinopharm and Sinovac.

They cited the lack of transparency in clinical trial test results and various efficacy rates as the main reasons for the disapproval.

The national government, on the contrary, had been in favor of and promoting the use of Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine (CoronaVac).

A total of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac arrived in the Philippines last February 28.

Despite the debates over the preference for China-made vaccines, the country successfully kicked off the first legal Sinovac vaccination on Monday, March at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital.

On Sinophobic accusations

Prior to the Sinovac vaccination, government supporters criticized those who reject CoronaVac and said that it is better than having no vaccine.

“Any vaccine is better than no vaccine. Some of you are just very sinophobic,” wrote one Twitter user.

Activist Carwyn Candila countered this claim and gave context on why some are opposing the inoculation of Sinovac coronavirus vaccine.

“The logic that Sinovac is substandard merely because it’s from China IS sinophobic. It stems from the Western stigma that China-made = shady. But this is not the basis why we are skeptical of Sinovac. Wala siyang phase three trials at may mga excesses ito sa research,” Candila wrote.

Other health workers online likewise described the “sinophobic” remarks as dismissive. They cited that they are only calling for transparency on clinical trial results which the Chinese firm has not yet provided.

“Wala kasi siyang Phase III Clinical Trial data which is a very important piece of information you need to have when deciding whether to institute certain treatments or not. Calling it sinophobic outright ignores this requirement of evidence for efficacy and safety,” one doctor wrote.

“I don’t have qualms where they were made because they have proven efficacy. It is overly simplistic to dismiss some as ‘very sinophobic’ when all we want is transparency,” another wrote.

Dermatologist Winlove Mojica quote-retweeted a user alleging some Filipinos are “sinophobic” and responded by editing the criticism.

“Edit: Any vaccine for COVID-19 approved by FDA and recommended by HTAC is better than no vaccine,” Mojica wrote.

Market surveillance analyst John Paul Tanyag with Twitter handle @dumidyeypee added that airing concerns for the benefit of public health and safety is not anti-Chinese.

When we want to close our borders as a measure to contain the virus last year, sinophobic? when we are airing concerns on a questionable vaccine and as what healthworkers, professionals and researchers had advised, sinophobic?” he asked.

Locsin’s accusation

In a quote-retweet last Sunday, Locsin joined others in alleging Duterte’s critics are sinophobic.

He responded to a report shared by Rappler CEO Maria Ressa about the Philippine government’s worry on the rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans in some parts of the United States.

Ressa described it as “ironic.”

Locsin responded to this and asked: “Why ironic? The critics of Duterte are Sinophobic and preach hatred of Chinese.”

A screenshot of this tweet made it to Reddit Philippines, wherein users countered Locsin and pointed out that their scrutiny is for the questionable “kowtowing” of Duterte to the Chinese government and not because of their race.

“Criticizing Duterte for kowtowing the Chinese Government =/= Sinophobia when hating all Chinese people including: Taiwanese, Hong Kong citizens, Chinese, Singaporeans and Malaysians, and Chinoys (angry emoji),” one Reddit user said.

Locsin has yet to announce if he will receive Sinovac’s CoronaVac or he will wait for the arrival of another vaccine brand in the country.