China’s health authorities have approved a Kovid vaccine from state-owned Sinopharm for general use on the population, the government has announced.
At a press conference in Beijing, a state workforce announced that the vaccine had exceeded World Health Organization standards and would help establish effective immunity in China.
Health officials said weaker groups would be given priority over the general population. Major groups are already receiving vaccines under emergency approvals, including about one million cyanopharma vaccines.
Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission, said it was the target for 60–70% of vaccination coverage, hoping to establish herd immunity. “As the Chinese vaccine proves to be safe and effective, we would like to encourage our people to participate on a voluntary and informed basis and with consent,” he said.
Officials did not provide specific dates, but said the rollout would begin “soon”, at a “significantly reduced” cost.
Zheng Zhongwei said the vaccine was publicly good and the cost of production was “the only basis for pricing”.
Sinopharma is a state-owned pharmaceutical company with two vaccine candidates among China’s five experimental treatments in international end stage trials. Public statements about Sinopharma vaccines do not clarify which of the two candidates is being discussed.
On Wednesday, Sinopharm announced that the vaccine was found to be 79% effective in Phase 3 trials. This was followed by the first 86% efficacy review by the UAE in December. Officials said the vaccines have not been applied in China because the virus is not prevalent.
Chinese vaccine developers have not released test data. On Thursday, a health official said that cyanopharm data would be published “later” in Chinese and foreign medical journals.
At an annual meeting of health workers on December 22, Zhang Wenhong, head of infectious diseases at Huasha Hospital at Fundon University, said there was apprehension about the vaccine produced domestically among Chinese people, and that party leaders first convinced the public To be vaccinated. A recording of his comments quickly spread on Chinese social media before being censored.
Sinopharm and rival developer Sinovac have created their vaccines through the more traditional method of using an inactive virus to trigger an immune response. They are more difficult to manufacture quickly than other types and have the potential to cause an imbalanced immune response, but have shown historical success.
Mao Junfeng, head of consumer products at China’s Ministry of Industry, said that vaccine producers had increased production capacity. “We believe China’s vaccine production will largely meet vaccination demand, and is looking forward that the ministry will follow the plans [of the central government] … and help enterprises expand production capacity and ensure that a smooth production and supply chain will provide effective and accessible vaccines for people. “
In September the UAE was the first country outside China to approve the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine. It has since been made available in Bahrain and shipped to Egypt, while Morocco plans to rely on it to vaccinate 80% of its adult population. Other countries have signed on to China’s other domestically produced frontrunner to receive the Cyanovac vaccine. In October, China announced that it was joining Coxax, which aims to ensure global reach for the vaccine.