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Coronavirus

China approves first domestic COVID vaccine, developed by Sinopharm

Company says efficacy rate is 79%, paving way for large-scale inoculations

A medical worker inspects syringes of COVID-19 inactivated vaccine products at a packaging plant of the Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of state-owned Sinopharm.   © AP

SHANGHAI -- China approved the country's first domestically made COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, paving the way for mass inoculation and recognition overseas.

Developed by the Beijing Biological Products Institute under China National Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, the vaccine showed 79.34% efficacy and a 99.52% antibody positive conversion rate in Phase 3 clinical trial results, the institute announced a day earlier.

Sinopharm is one of four Chinese pharmaceutical companies carrying out late-stage clinical trials on COVID-19 vaccines. Its tests involve two different vaccines and 70,000 volunteers in more than 10 countries.

Both vaccines use an inactivated virus as the immunology agent. They can be stored between 2 C and 8 C, rendering it easier to transport and store than Pfizer-BioNTech's mRNA-based vaccine, which must be kept at minus 70 C. While one was developed with the Beijing Institute, the other is a product of joint work with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. 

The Beijing Institute vaccine will be made available free of charge to all citizens, with priority given to the elderly and infirm, the government said Thursday. 

More than 3 million Chinese have received one of Sinopharm's vaccines or those of its rivals under regulatory provisions for emergency use.

Shares of Sinopharm Group rose 3.4% to HK$18.86 in Hong Kong on Thursday. 

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain approved the Beijing vaccine earlier this month after clinical trials in the two countries showed an efficacy rate of 86%. Pakistan on Thursday announced it would order 1.2 million doses. 

Sinopharm's annual production capacity for the Beijing vaccine reached 120 million doses as of Thursday, the state-run Global Times reported, quoting a company executive. The company aims to ramp that up to 1 billion doses in the new year.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical will team up with BioNTech to produce the German's drugmaker's mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine in China, according to Beijing-based media group Caixin.

Fosun Pharmaceutical clinched a license from BioNTech earlier this year to distribute the vaccine in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Fosun's production line would initially be able to make 200 million doses of the vaccine annually, Caixin reported.

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