Coronavirus: China set for 100 million doses of BioNTech vaccine amid roll-out of shots overseas

Simone McCarthy
·4-min read

China is poised to receive 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from German company BioNTech next year, as vaccines are being rolled out around the world and countries are scrambling for access.

On Wednesday, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group said it would buy at least 100 million doses of a vaccine from BioNTech for use in China next year, pending regulatory approval.

BioNTech has been developing its mRNA-based vaccine in cooperation with US company Pfizer globally, while the firm has partnered with Fosun Pharma, as the Chinese company is commonly known, for development and distribution in China. Both partnerships were arranged separately in March. The mRNA vaccine is a two-dose course, so 100 million doses would be enough for 50 million people.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

The announcement about supplying China comes as much-awaited vaccines are starting to be administered in other countries.

The first shots of the Pfizer -BioNTech vaccine have been given in the United States, Britain and Canada in recent days, following emergency-use authorisation by those nations’ regulatory agencies.

BioNTech and Pfizer announced results from their phase 3 study of the BNT162b2 vaccine on November 18. They found the vaccine to be 95 per cent effective against Covid-19 as compared with a placebo. Results were published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine last week.

How Unicef is preparing for challenge of distributing Covid-19 vaccines

Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates started inoculations using a vaccine developed under China’s state-owned Sinopharm on Monday, according to local media. Regulators in the UAE, where trials were carried out, approved the vaccine on December 9, with officials saying the vaccine was 86 per cent effective.

Another trial site, Bahrain, has followed suit in approving the Sinopharm vaccine, although complete data has not been made available by the company or in a scientific publication.

China has authorised several of its home-grown candidates for emergency use since July. Almost a million people had received experimental doses developed by Sinopharm under the government’s emergency-use scheme, the company’s chairman said last month.

China’s limited-use authorisation of candidates developed under Sinopharm and another Chinese company, Sinovac, came before phase 3 trials were completed.

After the coronavirus research race, vaccine producers face new hurdles

The doses under the BioNTech and Fosun Pharma agreement will initially come from BioNTech’s German production facilities, both firms said on Wednesday.

“We are pleased to reach the supply agreement with BioNTech, which is an important step in Fosun Pharma and BioNTech’s efforts to achieve vaccine accessibility and affordability in China,” said Fosun Pharma chairman and CEO Wu Yifang.

To meet the regulatory requirements, the companies launched a phase 2 clinical trial of their vaccine candidate in China last month.

Results of that trial, which assesses the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine candidate in 960 Chinese participants, will be paired with global data from Pfizer-run phase 3 trials to support their approval application.

In a Hong Kong stock exchange filing, Fosun Pharma said the sale and supply of the vaccine would be made in stages, including the import of both finished products and bulk ingredients.

Fosun Pharma said its side would be entitled to 60 per cent of annual gross profit from sales of doses that it would make from imported bulk ingredients, and 65 per cent of profit from sales of imported finished doses.

The Fosun Pharma and BioNTech agreement is among several partnerships between international and Chinese firms for Covid-19 vaccine supply.

In a deal with British-Swedish company AstraZeneca, Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products aims to have enough capacity to produce at least 100 million doses by the end of the year.

Sinopharm could have the capacity to produce 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines next year, Chinese media reported this week. Although it remains unclear how many are earmarked for domestic use.

China has opted to get enough doses for 1 per cent of its population via the WHO-backed Covax Facility.

More from South China Morning Post:

This article Coronavirus: China set for 100 million doses of BioNTech vaccine amid roll-out of shots overseas first appeared on South China Morning Post

For the latest news from the South China Morning Post download our mobile app. Copyright 2020.