Timeline of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine deliveries worldwide from December 2020 to April 2022. Source: Bridge Beijing
In February 2021, over six months since talk of the first COVID-19 vaccines had emerged, our team noticed a growing trend on Twitter – people were becoming interested in Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines. While mRNA vaccines had been dominating the COVID-19 vaccine conversation, some were shifting their focus to inactivated vaccines developed in China as two strangely contradicting trends were emerging. On one side, an increasing number of countries (e.g., Brazil and Indonesia) were giving emergency use approvals to Chinese-developed inactivated vaccines; on the other hand, a growing number of countries and experts were starting to question the efficacy and effectiveness of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines – as Phase 3 and clinical trial results for these vaccines were slowly being released.
As discussions 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 research and analysis of China’s global health 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 to grasp a true understanding of its outreach. 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-based data and facts from credible sources. Fuelled 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. At this point we developed and launched a live tracker that we update weekly (every Monday). The China COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, as we now know it, displays an array of charts and insights to help readers better understand the outreach of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines with up to date figures regarding bilateral and multilateral donations, pledges and deliveries. It even features information on joint-production of Chinese vaccines in countries in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe.
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, research documents, and online posts around the world; Reuters, Bloomberg, South China Morning Post and The New York Times are just a few examples of top international news outlets that have cited our data. It is clear to say that our vaccine tracker is now 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 have learnt from the development and maintenance of our tracker is: objective discussions on Chinese COVID-19 vaccines can only be performed with the use of reliable and factual 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.