The Abridged Series

December 30, 2021 | By Marisa Lim, Junior Consultant, Bridge Consulting | Image source: The Phnom Penh Post

As part of a new series titled The Abridged Series on The Bridge Foreword, our writers will be sharing their unique perspectives on the issues we work on here at Bridge Consulting. In this inaugural article, we will be sharing the story behind how we created the biggest Chinese COVID-19 vaccine tracker on the Internet. See our vaccine tracker here.

How many COVID-19 vaccines has China delivered? How many has China donated? Where are these Chinese vaccines going to? These are just some of the many popular questions from journalists, academics and many others learning about China’s COVID-19 vaccine outreach. In trying to keep up with news on donations and deliveries of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, such people, including yourself, would have then probably come across our China COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker at least once or twice. This is, probably, the most comprehensive Chinese COVID-19 vaccine tracker that you will find on the internet.

Through our Tracker, Bridge Consulting leverages its expertise on China’s role in global health to enhance our international audience’s understanding of Chinese vaccines. We have it concisely displayed right here by meticulously recording each individual delivery, sale, and donation of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, alongside other information on local vaccine production and COVAX deals. However, what may surprise you is that this vaccine tracker is barely even a year old and started off very different from what it is today.  Here is the story behind how we created the biggest Chinese COVID-19 vaccine tracker on the internet.

The Birth of an Idea

It was late February 2021, and over six months since talk of the first COVID-19 vaccines had emerged, when our team noticed a growing trend on Twitter – people were getting interested in Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines. While mRNA vaccines had been dominating the COVID-19 vaccine conversation for the past months, people were shifting their focus onto inactivated vaccines developed in China as two strangely contradicting trends were emerging. An increasing number of countries (e.g., Brazil and Indonesia) were giving emergency use approvals to Chinese-developed inactivated vaccines; while many were starting to question the efficacy and effectiveness rates of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines – as Phase 3 and clinical trial results for these vaccines were slowly being released.

As talk about Chinese vaccines increased over time, the emerging debate began to appear rather polarizing with a lack of substantial evidence presented by either side in these discussions. Having just published an article (Four Months After China’s Joining of COVAX: Progress Amid Uncertainties) that involved much research on Chinese vaccines, our team realized that information on Chinese vaccines was available on the Internet, but it was hard to find and largely scattered over a variety of sources. With our expertise in China’s global and development cooperation, we saw an opportunity to step in and aggregate all this information on Chinese vaccines to make it more accessible for researchers and the general public. 

A snapshot of some top articles from late Feb 2021. Sources: AP News, CGTN, Politico.

Bringing the Idea to Life

In March 2021, we launched our first Twitter series under the hashtag #ChinaCOVID19Tracker, with the aim of bringing bite-sized yet valuable information on Chinese vaccines to support ongoing discussions with evidence from credible sources. We updated the aggregated table we first published in our previous article, alongside a summary of the top five Chinese vaccine deliveries from the last week. Fueled by an overwhelming response from our audience on Twitter, we saw this as a sign that this idea could potentially leave great impact on the Chinese vaccine conversation.

Source: @BridgeBeijing on Twitter

Source: @BridgeBeijing on Twitter

The following week, we launched an interactive map that displayed global data on Chinese vaccine sales, donations, and deliveries on our website. This also garnered many positive responses from netizens, which encouraged us further to continue exploring various ways to visualize our research data.

As interest in our vaccine tracker grew, and as the vaccine landscape started changing, so did the questions about our data. What brands were being sold and donated? Which Chinese vaccine was more popular? Which regions were receiving the most or least vaccines? These were the same questions that we posed in our work. Therefore, we started expanding our research into other statistics on Chinese vaccines, including regional breakdowns, comparisons between different brands of Chinese vaccines, progress of the overseas production of Chinese vaccines, and even COVAX deliveries of Chinese vaccines.

Nonetheless, we were met with many challenges along the way. With the colossal amount of information we were handling, it was paramount to instate a meticulous research process to minimize data errors. In addition to possible miscalculations, the possibility of uncaptured information was very high since all our data is manually aggregated from publicly available sources. Countless rounds of trial-and-error helped us create an almost error-proof system to handle our research process. In contrast, questions, suggestions, and support from our audience and other research teams helped us patch up any missing information from our data. It was a continuous learning process for us without much former experience in data collection and visualization, made only possible with the support we received.

Impacting the Chinese Vaccine Conversation

Today, our vaccine tracker is the biggest and most comprehensive China-focused COVID-19 vaccine resource bank on the internet. Our data has been cited in numerous articles, essays, and online posts around the world, making it a go-to source for people learning about Chinese vaccines and as an up-to-date dataset of China’s COVID-19 vaccine outreach. One thing we can learn from all this is: Discussions can only be informed with reliable quantitative data. Our team set out with a humble mission to support the ongoing Chinese vaccine conversation by providing our expertise in the issue, but we ended up creating a larger impact than we ever expected.

Moving forward, we hope to continue supporting the Chinese vaccine conversation in many ways. If you are interested in working with us on our research, we will be more than happy to receive your ideas at info@bridgebeijing.com.

About The Author

Marisa Lim

Marisa Lim is a Singapore-based Junior Consultant with Bridge Consulting. With a background in Biomedical Engineering at the National University of Singapore, Marisa is an aspiring trailblazer with a passion for global health and social causes. Find Marisa on LinkedIn.