China leads COVID-19 vaccine race, at ‘war-time speed’, Report

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Coronavirus Update: How the UK will get Pfizer's Covid vaccine from factory to patient
Coronavirus Update: How the UK will get Pfizer's Covid vaccine from factory to patient

China has been forging ahead in the race to develop a vaccine to help control the Covid-19 pandemic, with Sinovac Biotech’s experimental vaccine set to become the country’s second and the world’s third to enter final stage testing later this month.

According to a report by Reuters, the race is on worldwide to make, test, and get a vaccine into the hands of medical professionals, with China forging ahead to develop a vaccine to control the COVID-19 pandemic: Sinovac Biotech’s experimental vaccine is set to become the country’s second and the world’s third to enter final stage testing later this month.

Many other countries, including the U.S., are coordinating closely with the private sector to try to win the vaccine development race, and China faces many challenges, the report said.

Large-scale vaccine trials are harder to conduct, due to China’s success in driving down COVID-19 infections, and only a few other countries so far have agreed to work with it, the report said. In addition, vaccine scandals in the past mean Beijing will have to convince the world it has met all safety and quality requirements.

But, what is yielding results so far, is China’s use of command economy-type tools, the report said.

For example, according to the report, a state-controlled entity “completed two vaccine plants at what it called the ‘war time speed’ of a couple of months, while state-owned enterprises and the military have allowed experimental shots to be used on staff.”

A driving force in China’s efforts to fight infectious diseases has been the People’s Liberation Army’s medical research unit. It also is working with private firms including CanSino to develop COVID-19 vaccines, the report said.

China is challenging the West’s traditional dominance of the industry. It is behind eight of the 19 vaccine candidates in human trials, the report said, with Sinovac’s experimental shot and one jointly developed by the military and CanSino, among the front runners.

What technology is China’s main focus?

China’s main focus on inactivated vaccine technology could raise the chances of success. According to the report, this technology is well known and has been used to make vaccines against diseases such as influenza and measles.

By contrast, the report said, several Western contenders such as U.S.-based Moderna and Germany’s CureVac and BioNTech, are using a new technology called messenger RNA. This technology has never before yielded a product approved by regulators.

In reference to inactivated vaccine technology, Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said: “It’s a tried and true strategy.”

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