China has successfully provided Covid-19 vaccines to one million people
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The South Morning China Post is reporting that one million Chinese citizens have been given a Covid-19 vaccine developed by private firm Sinovac Biotec with promising results. “In terms of emergency use, the vaccines were applied to nearly a million people and there has not been a single case of a serious adverse event. People have had only mild symptoms,” Liu Jingzhen, chairman of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), said in an interview with a Sichuan-based digital media company that was published last week. “Until now, all our progress, from research to clinical trials to production and emergency use, we have been leading the world,” he said.
China is one of just two countries, along with Russia, known to have used so-called vaccine candidates – products that are still undergoing clinical trials to test their efficacy and safety – to inoculate its citizens. The products’ use has been restricted to high-risk individuals like frontline health professionals and included school, supermarket, and public transport workers.
Sinovac Biotec also made the vaccine available to high-risk groups in the east China province under the emergency use scheme.
Exactly how many Chinese citizens have received the vaccine is still unknown, but local and foreign media reports showed images of people lining up outside disease control and prevention centres to receive them. Sinopharm’s announcement of 1 million recipients came after the company said in September that hundreds of thousands of people had already been given its vaccine candidates, which use an inactivated virus unable to replicate in human cells to trigger immune responses.
Pharmaceutical companies around the world have been working on Covid-19 vaccines for months. The Chinese vaccine report comes on the heels of Pfizer and BioNtech to seeking emergency US approval ‘within days’ after better-than-expected test results for their Covid-19 vaccines. Last week Pfizer announced that their product had achieved 95 per cent efficacy in its final clinical trials involving more than 43,000 people. US company Moderna said the interim results of the phase three trials of its Covid-19 vaccine showed it to have an efficacy rate of 94.5 per cent.
Both products scored well above the 50 per cent threshold required by regulators, which used the efficacy of flu shots as a reference point. US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said on Wednesday that authorisation and distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines could start in weeks, and that the US would have 40 million doses of the two vaccines ready by the end of the year.
The Chinese news of 1 million citizens being vaccinated without adverse reactions was welcome news around the world. While the interim results of final stage clinical trials of the Chinese vaccines have yet to be released, Liu said last week they would be available soon and that the findings were “better than expected”. Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared on a webinar last Thursday and signaled that China would soon be promoting their vaccines. “Recently, Pfizer and Moderna said their vaccines were very effective, but please trust me, the Chinese vaccines are very effective too,” said Gao. The webinar dealt with some of the technical questions related to the vaccines., For example, Gao asked “if the neutralizing antibodies in the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna can protect you?”
“If there are vaccines, can neutralising antibodies protect you? Can the data given by Pfizer and Moderna prove that? “Gao also asked whether the antibodies could reach the lungs and if there would be antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), which refers to the phenomenon that the vaccine actually makes it easier for the virus to enter host cells. Chinese scientists have said the chance of ADE happening with the Chinese vaccine candidates is extremely low.
The medical journal The Lancet has says that the inactivated vaccine produced by Sinovac generated a quick immune response in its first two stages of trials. The level of antibodies generated was lower than in recovered patients, and in the trials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. But scientists say only the results of final-stage trials can show if, and what level of, antibodies can protect people from COVID-19 19.
Turkey has already announced it will sign a contract this week to buy at least 20 million doses of a Covid-19 candidate vaccine from the Chinese Sinovac company, in addition to its talks with Pfizer. “We will be able to procure at least 10 million doses of the Chinese vaccine in December. We want to increase this number. It will be just as much in January, too,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency. If the deal goes through, Turkey will be the second buyer of Chinese vaccines, after Brazil.
Photo: Daniel Schludi, Unsplash