Chinese vaccines build solid wall of defense against COVID-19

Ruyang county, central China's Henan province, administers its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines at its disease control center, Jan. 6. (Photo by Kang Hongjun/People's Daily Online)

The inactivated COVID-19 vaccine produced by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), an affiliated company of Sinopharm, was approved by China’s National Medical Products Administration on Dec. 30 last year.

As the first Chinese COVID-19 vaccine hitting the market, it has laid a solid foundation for the final victory over the virus, the most severe pandemic the world has ever seen in a century, with its sufficient production capacity, safety, efficacy, availability and affordability.

The CNBG vaccine was developed in strict accordance with China’s national vaccine development regulations and standards, including the drug administration law and vaccine administration law. Its phase-3 clinical trial involved over 60,000 volunteers of 125 nationalities. Both numbers ranked the first in the world.

According to a press conference by the State Council joint prevention and control mechanism against COVID-19 held on Jan. 1, China has administered over 24 million doses of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines, which indicated the safety of the Chinese vaccine. Besides, the vaccine shows 79.34 percent efficacy against COVID-19, higher than the 50-percent threshold of the World Health Organization. China’s COVID-19 vaccines are standing out with its remarkable performance, as the efficacy of general respiratory disease vaccines is relatively low.

Facing the rampant spread of COVID-19, the CNBG did its best to gear up and race against the virus. It chose inactivated vaccine as its major development direction, and launched R&D at both its Beijing and Wuhan institutes to ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

On the one hand, inactivated vaccine has a stronger protection against virus variation. It contains virus particles, bacteria, or other pathogens that have been killed to destroy disease producing capacity, so it has more complete antigenic component and features a wider protection against strains from different parts of the world. On the other hand, after decades of practices, the long-term safety and efficacy of inactivated vaccines have been well proved.

China’s COVID-19 vaccines, positioned as a global public health product, have prominent advantages, such as mass production and wide adaptability.

The CNBG has established high-level vaccine production workshops at its Beijing and Wuhan institutes. After the inspection and verification by relevant departments, they have started mass production of the inactivated COVID-19 vaccines. The Beijing institute has a designed annual production capacity of 120 million doses, and the number is expected to hit 1 billion in 2021 after workshop expansion. The CNBG is now planning to further expand its capacity to better meet demands.

At present, China is administering COVID-19 vaccines to 9 major groups aged 18 to 59. According to the instruction of the CNBG COVID-19 vaccine, it can be used for people above the age of 18, which means it already covers the group of the people aged above 60. Next, China will orderly advance the vaccination for high-risk groups and regular groups, and finally offer free vaccination to all citizens. Besides, the phase 1 and 2 clinical trials for the group aged 3 to 17 have been finished, and relevant products will be released soon.

The pandemic will eventually be defeated. The remarkable epidemic control and scientific research results of China showcased the institutional advantages of the socialism with Chinese characteristics, as well as the strong innovation capability of the country’s biotechnology.

China will keep enhancing its efforts to tackle major topics of life science, so as to contribute its wisdom and strength to improving the availability and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries and building a community with a shared future for mankind.

(Yang Xiaoming is the chairman of the CNBG and chief scientist of the vaccine project under the 863 Program, a national government-funded high-tech development initiative.)

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