China approves first vaccine for general use

China’s drug regulator has approved the country’s first vaccination against coronavirus for general use, a sign of confidence in the experimental shots the country plans to develop inside and outside its borders.

China’s national medical products authorized a state-owned Covid-19 vaccine China National Biotec Group Co., a unit of Sinopharm, officials told reporters in Beijing on Thursday.

With the approval, the vaccine – which has been allowed for emergency use in China since the middle of the year, along with other precursor shots – will be made commercially available, which means it can be administered to the general population. U.S. to Singapore regulators have approved shots over the past month, including vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc, but it was largely for emergency use, a status that China granted to its developers months ago.

Zin Yixin, deputy minister of the National Health Commission, said Zeng Yixin, deputy minister of the country’s national health commission, said the briefing.

The country has already administered more than 4.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, up from just 3 million since mid-December, Zeng said. It is said which aims to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by February, ahead of the annual Moon New Year holiday. The proportion of adverse reactions, including allergies, is about two out of every million, Zeng said on Thursday.

Facing challenges

After the briefing, state media, including the People’s Daily newspaper, reported that the vaccine would be provided free of charge to Chinese citizens. While Zeng had predicted that the shots would be free, specific details about the rollout were not provided.

“Vaccinations are by nature a public good and the price will vary according to the extent of use,” Zeng said during the briefing. “But the broader premise is that it will be offered free of charge to the entire population.”

The vote for wider use underscores China’s determination to play a key role in providing vaccinations to its own people and countries around the world. However, the country faces challenges in winning the trust of millions of people who have to rely on their vaccines.

China struggles to make world trust with its vaccines

Chinese developers were sluggish compared to their western counterparts in releasing clinical trial data. raising questions about transparency, efficacy and safety as the world puts a laser focus on which vaccines will be the most successful in fighting the pandemic. Pfizer and Moderna, which have developed leading coronavirus vaccines using messenger RNA technology, have submitted data to the FDA that is publicly available. AstraZeneca’s peer-reviewed results were published in The Lancet this month.

President Wu Yonglin said on Thursday that CNBG would publish detailed data on his shots in recognized international medical journals.

“We can not simply compare whether Chinese vaccines are better or foreign,” said Zheng Zhongwei, an official of the National Health Commission. “Only by fully evaluating the safety, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability of each one can we do a scientific review.”

Lack of trust

Conflicting interim data released by some of the companies contributed to the lack of confidence in China’s vaccines. CNBG said on Wednesday its shot was effective in preventing Covid-19 in 79.3% of people, less than the 86% previously reported from its trials in the United Arab Emirates.

Competitive local developer Meanwhile, Sinovac Biotech Ltd. has not yet yielded definitive results on how effective the vaccine is, with trials in Brazil and Turkey suggesting that the shot on both sides has a protection rate of 90%. A person familiar with the trials said last week that the company continues to reconcile the results of independent Phase III trials in Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia and Chile.

The Pfizer and Moderna shots yielded better results, reducing the symptomatic Covid-19 cases by more than 90% in giant trials. But the Chinese vaccines have the advantage that they can be stored and distributed more easily because they do not need to be frozen, as the mRNA shots do, which makes distribution to rural areas and developing countries easier.

Geopolitical influence

The approval for general use is unlikely to make a big difference in China itself, as the country has largely eliminated the local transmission of the virus through strict local closures and mass tests. But it could be a game changer for other countries experiencing uncontrollable outbreaks – such as Indonesia and Peru – that offer China’s vaccinations.