Chinese COVID-19 vaccine takes step forward

China will continue to promote accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines, the country’s local embassy says after a state-owned company's jab was approved for emergency use by the world’s health regulator. 

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Embassy, Zhang Muyue, said that the country’s Sinopharm vaccine for the virus has been validated by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), opening doors for its wider distribution. 

The vaccine is produced by Beijing Bio-Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China National Biotec Group (C.N.B.G.).

"Last Friday, [the World Health Orgnisation] validated China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, which means the vaccine has been validated for safety, efficacy, and quality,” Ms. Muyue said.

“China's Sinopharm vaccine is the first developed by a non-Western country included in W.H.O’s Emergency Use Listing.

"China will continue to work with the international community to promote vaccine equity and accessibility in the developing world and contribute to mankind's early victory over COVID-19. 

"China is the first to pledge to make vaccines a global public good and is providing more vaccines to developing countries than any other country.”

The vaccine is one of two main Chinese coronavirus vaccines that have been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere.

Ms. Muyue added that China has offered vaccine assistance to over 80 developing countries and exported doses to over 50 countries, as part of the country’s continuous effort to bridge the global "vaccine divide". 

Ms. Muyue said that China has also announced to provide 10 million doses of vaccines to the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility to meet the urgent need of developing countries for inoculations.

A 7 May W.H.O media release said the Sinopharm product was an inactivated vaccine with easy storage requirements that made it highly suitable for low-resource settings. 

It is the also first vaccine that will carry a vaccine vial monitor, a small sticker on the vaccine vials that change color as the vaccine is exposed to heat, letting health workers know whether the vaccine remains safe to be used. 

The W.H.O’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (S.A.G.E.) has also completed its review of the vaccine. 

On the basis of all available evidence, the W.H.O. recommends the vaccine for adults 18 years and older, in a two-dose schedule with spacing out of doses of between three to four weeks. 

The vaccine’s efficacy for symptomatic and hospitalised patients with the disease was estimated to be 79 per cent, all age groups combined.  

Efficacy could not be estimated for older adults (those aged over 60) in clinical trials due to low numbers of test subjects. 

Nevertheless, W.H.O is not recommending an upper age limit for the vaccine because preliminary data suggests the vaccine is likely to have a protective effect in older persons.  

The W.H.O. media release there is no theoretical reason to believe that the vaccine has a different safety profile in older and younger patient groups.  

According to Reuters, Sinopharm has supplied over 200 million doses at home and abroad, while the country’s other leading vaccine, Sinovac, has shipped over 300 million doses of its shot worldwide. 

Both companies' vaccines have been exported to many countries, particularly in Latin America, Asia and Africa, many of which have had difficulty securing supplies of vaccines developed in the West.

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