MANILA — A vaccine expert from China who reportedly criticized the side effects caused by Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine clarified that his statement was supposedly meant as a disclaimer but that his words were taken out of context by foreign media.
In an interview on Global Times, an English-language Chinese newspaper under China-based People's Daily, Tao Lina said he listed Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine side effects satirically on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site, for being lengthy.
He also reportedly pointed out that because such side effects are listed on the manual, patients who experience adverse reactions won’t be able to sue the state-owned pharmaceutical firm.
A Taiwan news report recently carried Tao’s statement, saying he had called the Chinese-made vaccine the “most unsafe in the world.”
"I did not say in the post that the Chinese vaccine was unsafe, because I know most of those 73 adverse reactions written on the Sinopharm vaccine user guide are non-existent," Tao was quoted as saying.
“You can never put too much emphasis on safety and efficacy. The attempts to discredit the image of Chinese vaccines' safety really makes me annoyed,” he added.
The Global Times report also said the Shanghai-based expert regretted that foreign media twisted his words to “support its own narrative” by emphasizing Tao’s expertise and him being a “former employee of the Shanghai disease prevention and control department.”
“This ironic way of pointing out the safety and efficacy of the Chinese vaccine was distorted by foreign media,” he said.
But Tao still defended his post on Weibo, which was allegedly taken down by authorities according to Taiwanese media.
He explained that Sinopharm vaccine's user guide had improper instructions written, and that it was inconclusive to say that “extreme adverse reactions such as high blood pressure are directly related to the vaccine.”
"It is possible that some irresponsible temporary employee made this user guide, which could have been wrongly written," he said.
Among the over 70 side effects mentioned in the Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine manual that he posted include pain, swelling and itching on the vaccination area.
The manual also reportedly mentioned headache, fever, muscle pain, difficulty breathing and diarrhea as common “systemic adverse reactions.”
Listed as “occasional” effects are anorexia and vomiting while “very rare” effects include asthma, tonsillitis, eye pain, vision loss, earache, high blood pressure, urinary incontinence and delayed menstruation.
Sinopharm is among the COVID-19 vaccine frontrunners. Its vaccine is already on limited use in China, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. It also claims to have a 79% efficacy rate against COVID-19.
The said vaccine was also reportedly used to inoculate members of the Presidential Security Group despite not yet being approved for use in the Philippines, prompting public criticism.