Sinopharm: China approves its first homegrown Covid-19 vaccine

Sinopharm is said to have 79% efficacy.

Sinopharm, China’s national pharmaceutical company, announced on December 30th that its vaccine candidate was 79% efficient in containing the contagious coronavirus. The Chinese government later on Thursday announced that they were giving the vaccine manufacturers a green signal after the results for clinical trials showed that the vaccine was effective. The country aims to vaccinate 50 million people before they start traveling for the celebrations of the upcoming Lunar New Year in February, according to The New York Times

The approval, however, is conditional and the government has told Sinopharm to collect more data about the vaccine trials and its long term results and effects. The company executive of Sinopharm states that more than 60,000 people were made part of the Phase 3 trials. The detailed data of the trials and results will be published in major scientific and academic journals later, he added, CNN reports.

The lack of details about the trials and their results have raised several questions in the minds of experts. The press release consisted of 150 words and had no details about the trials and results. The press release states: 

“According to the statistical analysis of the Sinopharm China Biotech, the results of the interim analysis of the new corona virus inactivated vaccine phase III clinical trial showed that the safety of the new coronavirus inactivated vaccine of Sinopharm China Bio Beijing Company is good after inoculation, and the vaccine group is vaccinated after two injections of the immunization program. All patients produced high-titer antibodies, the neutralizing antibody positive conversion rate was 99.52%, and the vaccine’s protective efficacy against the disease caused by the new coronavirus infection (Covid-19) was 79.34%. The data results reached the relevant technical standards of the World Health Organization and the country. The “Guiding Principle for Clinical Evaluation of New Coronavirus Preventive Vaccines (Trial)” issued by the Food and Drug Administration is required by relevant standards. At present, Sinopharm China Biotech Beijing has formally submitted a conditional listing application to the State Food and Drug Administration.”

Though mass vaccination is already underway in China, as several domestic vaccines have already got emergency licenses, the country plans to take a step further and vaccinate people who are at high-risk. These people include already ill and senior citizens. The vice-minister of China’s National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin, said that the vaccine will be available for Chinese people for free. 

READ: UK approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for Covid-19, becomes the first country to authorize it for emergency use

“Vaccine is a public good by its nature, and the price may vary based on the scale of use, but an important premise is that it will be provided to the public for free”, he said. 

The Chinese vaccine is not just developed for the Chinese population but will be provided to other nations as well. The country pledges to make the vaccine available for underdeveloped and low-income countries at a “fair price”. UAE is the first in the line and had ordered the Sinopharm vaccine earlier in December, saying that it was 86% effective in fighting the coronavirus, and Bahrain followed afterwards, The Guardian reports. Pakistan ordered 1.2 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine hours after the vaccine got the approval. 

There are no clear reports about the number of vaccines Chinese manufacturers will produce. It is said that Sinopharm could supply about 100 million vaccine doses and will take the number of doses to 300 million this year. In early December, Chinese health authorities said that the country will be able to produce 600 million vaccine doses by the end of this year, The Guardian reports.

The storage temperature of the Sinopharm vaccine is just 2 to 8 degree Celsius or 36 to 46 degree Fahrenheit. This temperature is easily achievable in a home refrigerator. Ashley St. John, an immunologist at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore said, “This is very exciting that there is another vaccine and one that can be distributed in locations that don’t have the cold chain.”

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