A Chinese Covid-19 vaccine has proved effective, its maker says

Katie Ramirez
December 31, 2020

Chen Shifei, the deputy commissioner of the National Medical Products Administration, told reporters on Thursday the vaccine was developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm.

The minister told Reuters the purchase would be of the vaccine candidate developed by Sinopharm's Beijing Institute of Biological Products.

The political stakes in the race for a vaccine are particularly high for China's Communist Party, whose authoritarian rule has been criticized for stifling information and playing down the virus when it first emerged in the city of Wuhan in late 2019.

No detailed efficacy data of the vaccine has been publicly released, but a Beijing unit of CNBG said on Wednesday that its vaccine is 79.34% effective in preventing people from the disease based on interim data. By the end of November, more than 1.5 million doses of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines had been distributed for emergency use, and 60,000 vaccinated people have traveled overseas to high-risk regions, with no severe adverse reactions reported, Zeng said.

In a meeting of a Special Cabinet Committee constituted as an oversight body for procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine, it was decided that Pakistan will follow the practice of most of the countries to pre-book the vaccine based on preliminary results in order to ensure its timely availability of the vaccines, Xinhua news agency quoted a Ministry statement as saying. Russian Federation says its Sputnik V vaccine is 91% effective.

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The South China Morning Post newspaper reported that China would vaccinate as many as 50 million people from high-priority groups before the Lunar New Year holiday in February. Since July, a number of Chinese vaccine candidates have carried out phase-3 clinical trials overseas, said Zeng, adding that China has been at the global forefront of COVID-19 vaccine development.

Morocco is among the countries that will use the Chinese vaccine in their national vaccination campaign.

Chinese producers have at least six possible vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials. "One question is: What markets do they propose to use these vaccines in?" Some 36 per cent of respondents said they would also reject a Russian vaccine, while 23 per cent said they would not go for the U.S. vaccine. They are testing vaccines in more than a dozen countries including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.

Sinovac and Sinopharm use inactivated coronaviruses to make their vaccines - a tried-and-true method dating back over 130 years.

China's drive to develop a homegrown vaccine speaks to the country's technological and diplomatic ambitions. Several large countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where Chinese companies have been conducting trials, have each received shipments of more than 1 million doses of Sinovac vaccines. Turkey has ordered 50 million doses.

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