China May Be Keeping COVID-19 Data for Commercial Gain: Trump Adviser

By Reuters 21 April 2020

WASHINGTON—White House adviser Peter Navarro charged on Monday that China may be withholding data about early coronavirus infections because it wants to win the commercial race to create a vaccine.

The US, which has been the country worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic according to official statistics, has repeatedly called on Beijing to share early data on the outbreak, which began in China.

“One of the reasons that they may not have let us in and given us the data on this virus early, is they’re racing to get a vaccine and they think this is just a competitive business race, it’s a business proposition so that they can sell the vaccines to the world,” Navarro told Fox Business Network.

“But we’re going to beat them. We’re going to beat them because of President Trump’s leadership. We’re going to beat them because HHS has already got a five-company horse race,” said Navarro, referring to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump has named Navarro, an outspoken critic of China, to work on supply-line issues relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus that had killed more than 165,854 globally, with more than 2.41 million infected, as of Monday, according to a Reuters tally.

The US has more than 760,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and over 41,100 deaths.

The US government has cut deals with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc and said it is in talks with at least two other companies to prepare them to produce massive quantities of coronavirus vaccines even before safe and effective ones become available.

Most public health officials say no vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must still be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection.

The director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority told Reuters last month it plans to support five or six experimental vaccine candidates, with the hopes of having two or three successful ones.

China has approved at least three experimental coronavirus vaccines to be tested in human trials since the virus outbreak.

The state-controlled Beijing Daily newspaper cited the director at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as saying that China might use experimental vaccines on some people, such as medical workers, as early as the end of this year.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week pressed China’s top diplomat on the need for full transparency and information-sharing in the fight against the virus. China insists it has been transparent and has sharply criticized US officials who cast doubt on that.

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