China’s COVID Vaccine Plans, Domestic and International

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Dec. 31 (EIRNS)—China plans to produce at least 1.6 billion doses of COVID vaccines by the end of 2021, and they are committed to supplying the COVAX operation for distribution of vaccines to poor nations left behind by the commercial market. National Biotec Group thinks it can produce 1 billion doses; Sinovac Biotech, upwards of 600 million; and CanSino Biologics, around 200-300 million. China has five vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials, and three of those are being used presently under emergency use authorizations. The vaccine produced by Sinopharm, which has already inoculated 1 million Chinese in “key priority groups,” received authorization on Dec. 30 for general use. It has shown a 79% efficacy level in Phase 3 clinical trials. Three million doses just arrived in Turkey, where their previous trial reached a 91% efficacy level.

How much China will be able to contribute to the poor nations depends in part on how many doses China needs at home. Since they have so far controlled local outbreaks and don’t have an epidemic, they have been able to use their doses in a targeted fashion.

China’s first 1 million vaccinations were designated for “key priority groups”: doctors, hotel employees, border inspection personnel, food storage and transportation workers, and Chinese travelers abroad. This primarily dealt with controlling their exposure to other countries.

Another example of the targeted use is China’s current plan to vaccinate, by mid-February, 50 million people involved in such areas as internal public transport—in preparation for handling the voluminous traffic during China’s Lunar holiday. China’s measured deployment of their vaccine suggests that a significant portion of their 1.6 billion or more doses during 2021 will be available for poor nations throughout the year—that is, they won’t have to wait for every Chinese citizen to be vaccinated first.

Up to now, China has run vaccine trials in 16 different countries: National Biotec Group in Argentina, Morocco, and elsewhere; Sinovac Biotech in Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, and elsewhere; CanSino Biologics in Pakistan, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Besides their view that such a practice is good diplomacy, it is also the case that China’s excellent control of COVID-19 means clinical trials cannot be conducted inside China. (Even the placebo group would be extremely unlikely to catch the disease, so how could they measure the vaccine’s effectiveness?) With such geographically dispersed databases of participants, the Chinese vaccine producers are well-situated to meet COVAX’s approval process for distribution around the world.

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