China to provide free COVID-19 vaccine to residents
By Bu Shi, Liu Wei
China will provide COVID-19 vaccines for free to the Chinese public as the first vaccine has been granted conditional marketing approval for the general population, said Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, at a press conference on Thursday.
China's Medical Products Administration on Wednesday granted conditional marketing authorization to a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Beijing Biological Products Institute Co., Ltd. under the China National Biotec Group (CNBG), which is affiliated with Sinopharm.
The approved inactivated vaccine has showed 79.34 percent efficacy against COVID-19, according to the interim results of the phase-3 clinical trials unveiled by its developer on Wednesday.
China has to date adopted five technological approaches in developing COVID-19 vaccines, with 14 vaccines entering clinical trials, of which five are undergoing phase-3 clinical trials, Xu Nanping, vice minister of science and technology, told the press conference.
He also said the recent COVID-19 variants show no significant proof to affect the effectiveness of the vaccine after the studies among the experts. "We have a database of nearly 300,000 COVID-19 genomic sequence data at China National Center For Bioinformation. We've been keeping a close look at the virus variation which is happenning every day but within a normal scope."
The ministry also plans ahead for the possibility when the COVID-19 variants may affect the vaccine. Xu said they already have groups to research on certain tasks such as virus variation, vaccine examination, R&D and vaccine effectiveness.
Based on the research data from phase-1 and phase-2, the antibody can remain at a high level after six months, said CNBG President Wu Yongling. The effectiveness will be observed in a long term. Countries including United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have already approved the vaccine's registration for the commercial use in accordance with related WHO standards.
So far, the vaccine has been administered to over 60,000 people with 125 nationalities in many countries. The current results have exceeded the intended requirement.
To protect high-risk groups, China approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines in June and started inoculation at a small scale with over 1.5 million doses being administrated for emergency use by the end of November, said Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission. As the vaccine is approved to the market, vulnerable groups including the elderly and people with diseases will be the first to receive the inoculation.Then the vaccine will expand to all people. Generally inoculation rate needs to be over 60 percent to 70 percent to reach the herd immunity.
Since the official launch of vaccination on December 15, a total of more than 3 million doses have been administered to key population groups nationwide, Zeng added.