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Chinese people's confidence in domestic COVID-19 vaccines has grown higher as two Chinese companies presented their candidate vaccines at this year's China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing over the weekend, which demonstrates the country's leading position in pharmaceutical research against the deadly pandemic and would also help promote domestic COVID-19 vaccines in the international market, experts said.
The adjoining booths of China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Sinovac Biotech in the CIFTIS main exhibition hall were among the services trade fair's top attractions since it opened on Friday. The two vaccine developers presented their candidate vaccines at the opening ceremony of the fair.
A domestically produced inactivated COVID-19 vaccine displayed at the fair Photo: Li Hao/GT
Visitors were crowded around the booths, taking photos of the COVID-19 vaccine candidates and listening as staff manning the booths explained the tremendous efforts involved in the research and development and clinical trials.
A young woman working in Beijing who gave her surname as Ma, said she felt much confidence in the nation's virus containment after she had seen actual anti-COVID-19 vaccine products at the fair.
Expecting the vaccines to safely and effectively progress through phase three tests, she told the Global Times on Sunday that "I hope the vaccines will hit the market as soon as possible and we can all get one."
The two companies, one state-owned and another private, demonstrate China's achievements in COVID-19 vaccine development and show the country's confidence in the products' safety and efficacy, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based expert at vaccine, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Tao noted that from being a big vaccine consumer that relied on imports, China has grown into one of the world's leading vaccine research and development powers, in reference to China having put onto the market its own vaccine against major infectious diseases like pneumonia and H1N1.
Vaccine developers are hoping that the event will serve as a platform to ramp up global regulatory cooperation to begin delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the masses as quickly and safely as possible, according to Pearson Liu, spokesperson for the NASDAQ-listed Sinovac.
Sinavac has reportedly kicked off phase III clinical trials in Brazil and Indonesia and also obtained approvals from two other countries for the phase III trials.
Liu told the Global Times on Friday that the company is hoping the vaccine will be licensed for use by the year's end.
Sinovac's designed production capacity for the vaccine is 300 million doses annually. It takes 40 days for the company to produce one dose of the vaccine, media reported.
CNBG, a biological producer under the state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group Sinopharm (Sinopharm), has also launched clinical research in many countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Argentina, Peru, and Morocco, Zhang Yuntao, CNBG vice president and chief scientist told the Global Times on Friday. He said that CNBG is maintaining close communication with the World Health Organization (WHO) and joined the WHO-initiated solidarity trial for COVID-19 treatments.
The company's international clinical trial plan has involved more than 50,000 volunteers from 115 countries, media reported.
CNBG is upgrading its manufacturing techniques to expand its production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines from 200 million doses per year to 300 million doses per year, Zhang told media on Friday. He also disclosed a plan for the company to raise its annual capacity to 1 billion doses, Reuters reported.
Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm, previously told media that he hoped their COVID-19 vaccines will hit the market by the end of December at the price of less than 1,000 yuan ($144) for two doses.
According to the WHO website, phase Ⅲ clinical trials on eight COVID-19 candidate vaccines have kicked off as of September 3 with half of the candidates being developed by Chinese companies, including Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino Biologics Inc.
China is the first country to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine candidate into phase Ⅲ clinical trials as well as the first to reveal data on a candidate's clinical trials with a promising immune response.
On August 11, Chinese authorities issued the country's first invention patent for a recombinant adenovirus vaccine named Ad5-nCoV co-developed by China's CanSino and a team led by Chinese military infectious disease expert Chen Wei. Ad5-nCoV received special one-year military drug approval in June.
Chinese companies have also been a step ahead in vaccinating their employees especially those working overseas as some aviation and construction companies have been offering free vaccines.
Employees of state-owned enterprises preparing to go abroad had been offered two choices of homegrown inactivated vaccine shots for urgent use since June, the Global Times previously learned.
Sinopharm also offered free voluntary injections to front-line medical workers in some state-owned hospitals for urgent use in July.
Frontline employees in the civil aviation industry will be the next key group to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on an emergency basis, a document obtained by the Global Times last week showed.
On Friday, CNBG also signed an agreement with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV to ensure vaccination for its 60 reporter stationed around the world.
Western media have been hyping claims that China has stolen vaccine research data from the US to aid COVID-19 vaccine development process.
A New York Times report on Saturday claimed that China, Russia and Iran have stepped up attempts to steal information about vaccine research from the US.
"I don't understand why the US is saying about us stealing [vaccine information] at this stage as the vaccines are in phase III trials. We're just waiting for the results now," Tao said.
"And by the way, inactivated vaccine techniques are not complicated techniques worth stealing, so please provide evidence when accusing people," he said.
Global public good
As the global vaccine race intensifies alongside the progress in vaccine development, Chinese analysts warned against "vaccine nationalism" and called for international cooperation against the pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reiterated at a Friday briefing that vaccine nationalism will prolong the problem, not shorten it.
Tedros said using vaccines effectively across the world is "a global public good" and it is in the "the national interest of each and every country."
China has promised as early as May to make the COVID-19 vaccine developed in the country, when available, a global public good, which will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.
China is also pooling efforts in international cooperation to secure a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines without geopolitical boundaries. Meanwhile, the US refused to join COVAX, an international effort led by the WHO aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, once they are licensed and approved.
Altogether 172 economies including China are engaged in discussions to potentially participate in COVAX, which is looking to deliver two billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification by the end of 2021.
Nine candidate vaccines are currently being evaluated for inclusion in the COVAX Facility. They include two from China, two from the US, one from South Korea, one from the UK and one global, multi-manufacture partnership.