Coronavirus: China’s first Covax vaccines roll off Sinopharm factory lines

·3-min read

China has produced 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for the WHO-led Covax global sharing scheme, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

The vaccine is produced by the Beijing affiliate of Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, which was granted emergency use listing by the World Health Organization in May.

“The first batch of vaccines to be supplied to Covax rolled off the production line today, showing China’s commitment to offering vaccines as global public products,” ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

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“China will continue to support companies involved and strengthen communication and coordination with Covax and other international organisations.”

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – the public-private global partnership that co-leads Covax – said it “welcomes the news that Sinopharm doses are being prepared in anticipation of a potential agreement for supply to Covax”.

It added that it was in talks with Sinopharm and other manufacturers to help expand and diversify its vaccine portfolio.

Sinopharm’s vaccine is based on the traditional approach of using an inactivated virus to provoke an immune response. Trial data published last week indicated that it could offer 78.1 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid-19, with the rate dropping to 73.5 per cent after including asymptomatic cases.

The Chinese product can be stored and shipped at 2-8 degrees Celsius (35.6-46.4 Fahrenheit) and remains stable for 24 months, making it more accessible for developing countries.

In an online statement on Tuesday, Sinopharm said each vaccine batch to be supplied to Covax had a small sticker called a vial monitor that changed colour when it was exposed to heat. The monitor would allow medical professionals to know if the vaccine was safe to use, according to the WHO.

The company said its vaccine had been approved for use in Bahrain, Bolivia, the Seychelles, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, and more than 100 countries had asked to buy doses. More than 200 million doses of the vaccine have already been administered worldwide, it said last month.

In February, the foreign ministry said China would give 10 million doses of Chinese-made vaccines to the Covax Facility as the first step to help developing countries.

The WHO’s emergency use listing is a prerequisite to supply Covax. Apart from the Sinopharm Beijing subsidiary, six other Chinese vaccine developers have expressed interest in seeking approval from the global health agency.

A vaccine by Sinovac, another Chinese company, is being assessed by the WHO and a decision is expected in early June.

Meanwhile, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, another Sinopharm affiliate, said on Monday that a new factory was ready for operation and it could produce 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine per year.

The new plant brings the company closer to its target of 3 billion doses a year. The Beijing subsidiary has a factory that can produce 1 billion doses each year and is also expanding its capacity.

Additional reporting by Simone McCarthy

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