Sinopharm says its vaccine is 80% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections. The company has gained approval in over a dozen countries and has begun distributing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 doses around the world.
Early Phase I and II data suggest the Chinese vaccines are safe. Henry, a 31-year-old American teacher in Shanghai, got an email through his school asking if he wanted to get Sinopharm’s vaccine. Henry, who spoke with Fortune for a story about Chinese vaccine makers’ data, said he was hesitant at first. But ultimately he chose to take it to improve the chances that he could safely travel home to the U.S. and see his family. Below, in a conversation edited for length and clarity, Henry tells Fortune about his decision.
Fortune: You got your first jab of the Sinopharm vaccine in Shanghai in early January and your second later that month. Can you describe the experience of receiving the first dose?
Henry: I was looking forward to it, and it seemed like one of the most important vaccines I will get in my life. We took a bus to a repurposed sports complex that had been changed to a vaccine centre. When I went, it was really packed. I could tell there were more people there than the organizers had planned for.
I waited in line for about an hour and a half. They then checked my QR code on my phone. Within 10 minutes I had a needle in my arm. (Editor’s note: In the pandemic, China has employed QR codes on health code apps to track individuals’ COVID risk.)
Later I got an email from my health clinic mentioning a paper receipt we were given. If I didn’t have it, [the email said] the school nurse could just check my QR code and print it off for me.
How did you feel after getting the vaccine?
I had no side effects. I was almost looking forward to having one because I heard that’s a sign that it’s working, but I’m going to take having no side effects as a good thing.
My life hasn’t really changed at all either, but I’m feeling more optimistic. I don’t know if that’s because I got vaccinated or that I’m looking at numbers in the US and seeing more and more people getting vaccinated.
How did you weigh the pros and cons of getting the Sinopharm vaccine?
The decision did pit two parts of me against one another. I am very pro-vaccination, but at the same time I was a little bit hesitant about the lack of transparency in China. But I think the fact that a foreign country had approved the Sinopharm vaccine gave me more confidence in it.
Did your colleagues also take it?
It was a big conversation in the office. What surprised me was that a lot more expat staff percentage-wise were willing to take it than Chinese staff.
When you go to the U.S., do you think it will matter you got vaccinated in China?
When I go home, I have wondered if [my Chinese vaccine shot] will be accepted in the U.S. Will there be some things I can’t take part in? Or will I need something saying I got vaccinated in the U.S?
But [based on case numbers], I’d certainly rather be living in China with a vaccine shot that’s 80% effective than in the U.S. with a vaccine shot that’s 90% effective. – Fortune.