Chinese state firm Sinopharm aims to produce 1 billion vaccine doses in 2021

By Javier Garcia

Beijing, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- The head of China’s state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, Liu Jingzhen, announced Friday that they plan to produce one billion doses of its inactivated coronavirus vaccine this year, a large part of it for export.

During a visit organized for the media to the Sinopharm facilities near Beijing, Liu revealed that the pharmaceutical company was improving its production capabilities to produce more vaccines.

Annual production of Sinopharm would account for half of the two nillion doses that China plans to produce this year, according to the National Vaccine Industry Association head Feng Duojia, who recently said that the country would double that amount by 2022.

The Sinopharm complex on the outskirts of Beijing is made up of a number of factories and laboratories, where the whole process of experimentation, production, bottling and packaging of vaccines is carried out.

EFE checked how the doses are placed in bottles and packed in large cardboard boxes for distribution with the Chinese and English inscription “Vaccine (Vero Cell), inactivated”, and to be kept at temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

The Chinese state-owned company has created two inactivated vaccines: one with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and another with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

The former received conditional authorization from China for marketing on Dec. 30, while the latter was approved Friday by the National Medical Products Administration.

So far, China has conditionally approved four serums: the two from Sinopharm, one from Sinovac and one from the Cansino Biologics laboratory in collaboration with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences.

Sinopharm’s Beijing vaccine has an efficacy of 79.34 percent for ages 18-59, and a positive antibody conversion rate of about 99.52 percent, according to the company.

However, no detailed studies have been published in China on the results of their clinical trials.

Only the United Arab Emirates has published the results of the tests carried out there, revealing an efficacy of 86 percent. The significant difference has not been explained yet.

More than nine million doses of Sinopharm vaccines have already been used in several countries around the world, in addition to 34 million in China, state television reported.

Their vaccines can be stored in a normal refrigerator, making them potentially attractive to many developing countries, with difficulties in storing Pfizer or modern vaccines, which require much cooler temperatures.

Sinopharm has so far exported to three Latin American countries – Peru, Argentina and Bolivia – while another Chinese vaccine, by the private pharmaceutical company Sinovac, has been distributed in other countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic.

In Peru, a scandal broke out after several senior government officials, including former President Martin Vizcarra, were vaccinated with the “courtesy” doses provided by the Chinese pharmaceutical company before clinical trials were completed last year.

When asked by EFE about whether the so-called Peruvian “Vaccinegate” would affect the pending delivery of 37 million doses that the company still has to supply to the Andean country, Beijing Institute of Biological Products’ general manager Wang Hui declined to provide any details.

Wang, however, explained that they have experimented with 10 mutant strains of the coronavirus that have appeared in the world and that the results show that their vaccine “has good protection against mutations”.

“The South African strain, for example, does not affect the protection capacity of the vaccine,” he said.

The Chinese state-owned company’s inactivated vaccine has also been sent to two European countries – Hungary and Serbia – as well as several others from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

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