China can produce 1 billion doses this year of the newly approved vaccine against Covid 19 developed by Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a subsidiary of the state-owned conglomerate Sinopharm, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information.
The ministry also said on Tuesday that there would be enough vaccines for mass inoculation domestically, though it did not specify how many doses it is expecting.
Eighteen vaccine makers in China are ramping up production capacity, the ministry said, for all five vaccine types China is using or researching.
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China has previously identified the five types: inactivated vaccines; adenovirus vector vaccines, protein subunit vaccines, mRNA vaccines and vaccines using attenuated flu virus as vectors. Only the Sinopharm inactivated vaccine has released efficacy data so far.
China has already agreed to provide vaccines to a large number of countries. A flurry of orders also rushed in after China gave conditional approval in late December to the Sinopharm product, which is an inactivated vaccine that uses a dead virus to help the body develop an immune response.
China will be pressed to meet the demands of the massive export orders while also supplying enough two-dose vaccinations to most of its 1.3 billion citizens to achieve herd immunity.
In September, Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said that mass inoculation domestically was not necessary because transmission of Covid-19 was under control.
However, Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, said last month that China would provide free vaccines domestically and that the government encouraged public immunisation.
The government has also set aside 100 million doses for a campaign to inoculate 50 million people in high-priority groups by the Lunar New Year travelling peak in February. The ministry said that three separate inactivated vaccines would be administered during the campaign.
On Tuesday, the ministry said that production capacity of those vaccines – two by Sinopharm and one by Sinovac – has reached the target set last year. It did not specify the number, but officials have said previously that the country intended to have a capacity of 600 million doses.
It remains unclear how Beijing would prioritise the domestic needs as well as its commitment to export – and to which countries.
The ministry said it has set up a special task force to track the production progress, and that the provincial bureau of industry and information will assign officials to oversee the vaccine development.
It said the producers of the three inactivated vaccines have been working around the clock and “seizing every minute” to meet the target.
The ministry also said it would also ensure a stable supply chain for vaccine production.
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