Coronavirus: Chinese pharmaceutical firm says Covid-19 vaccine may be ready this year

Echo Xie
·3-min read

A coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by a Chinese pharmaceutical company could be ready for use by the end of this year, state media reported.

Liu Jingzhen, chairman of China National Pharmaceutical Group (SinoPharm), told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday that SinoPharm started phase three clinical trials in late June and the product was expected to enter the market by the end of the year.

“Phase three trials should be completed in about three months. In the meantime, they are in the final stages of approval,” he was quoted as saying.

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The vaccine candidate was jointly developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products – subsidiaries of the SinoPharm unit, China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

Liu said the two institutes had built P3-level production facilities to ensure they had the capacity for large-scale production if the next phase was successful.

China National Biotec Group said it started a phase three clinical trial in the United Arab Emirates on June 23. The trial is being conducted by CNBG in alliance with the Abu Dhabi Government and Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence company G42 Healthcare.

The trial involves about 15,000 participants and two vaccine strains.

Liu said the vaccine candidate entered phase one and phase two clinical trials on April 12, adding that he received an injection as a test on March 30.

“The effect is ideal and no one has experienced severe side effects,” he said.

Sinopharm’s announcement news comes as the world is still struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 15 million infections and over 630,000 deaths recorded.

Hong Kong had 118 new cases on Thursday during the city’s third wave of infections, while the northeastern mainland city of Dalian has reported three confirmed cases and 12 asymptomatic carriers on Thursday, after 111 days of no new infections in the coastal city.

Several candidate vaccines – in China and globally – started phase three trials this month.

The Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech started phase three trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine in Brazil. Another Chinese biopharmaceutical company, CanSino Biologics, this month said it was exploring opportunities for phase three trials overseas.

A vaccine candidate produced by a team at Oxford University and British firm AstraZeneca is already conducting phase three trials in Brazil and South Africa.

As of Tuesday, 24 candidate vaccines were at the clinical evaluation stage, while four were in phase three trials, according to the World Health Organisation.

At a virtual conference with his Latin American counterparts, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday China had pledged a US$1 billion loan to help Latin American and Caribbean countries access Covid-19 vaccines when they were available.

According to a statement published by Mexico’s foreign secretary, representatives from Latin-American countries thanked China for its offer.

Speaking at the World Health Assembly in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping said any Covid-19 vaccine developed in China would be made for the “global public good”.

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