China’s first SARS-CoV-2 AWcorna mRNA vaccine, developed by Abogen Biosciences, Walvax Biotechnology and the Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is on display at the National 13th Five-Year Exhibition of Scientific and Technological Innovation in China. On October 27, 2021, more than two years after the pandemic, China did not approve more effective mRNA vaccines, instead deciding to use its own pathway to COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: Chinatopix via AP

China is trying to overcome its biggest coronavirus outbreak without a tool that could have taken many months ago, vaccines that have proven to provide the best protection against the worst results of COVID-19.

Already in the spring of 2020, the Chinese pharmaceutical company Fosun Pharma reached an agreement to distribute and eventually produce an mRNA vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech. It has not yet been cleared in mainland China, although it has been allowed to be used by separate authorities in Hong Kong and Macau.

Now health experts say the delay is the result of policies and National pride above public health– can lead to avoidable coronavirus deaths and deeper economic losses because entire cities will be closed to isolate the country’s vulnerable population.

“The biggest problem is the delay in opening,” said Xi Chen, a health economist at Yale University’s School of Public Health. “The consequences will be huge, supply chain disruptions, disruptions in all types of service sectors.”

Studies consistently show that vaccination with mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna provides the best protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Chinese vaccines made by old technologies have proven to be quite effective against the original strain of the virus, but much less against more recent options.

China’s bet on home-grown mRNA vaccines is holding back the nation

China’s first SARS-CoV-2 AWcorna mRNA vaccine, developed by Abogen Biosciences, Walvax Biotechnology and the Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is on display at the National 13th Five-Year Exhibition of Scientific and Technological Innovation in China. On October 27, 2021, more than two years after the pandemic, China did not approve more effective mRNA vaccines, instead deciding to use its own pathway to COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: Chinatopix via AP

As this evidence became clearer, even countries that originally used Chinese vaccines and some other less effective Western-made vaccines switched to mRNA vaccines for revaccination and new vaccinations.

Not China. Regulators have not publicly said why they did not act – mRNA vaccines are allowed in most parts of the world and have proven their safety and effectiveness for hundreds of millions of people. But a Chinese health spokesman and another person directly involved in the talks told the Associated Press that the authorities were holding back because they wanted to master the technology in China rather than depend on foreign suppliers. Both spoke on condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the issue.

For more than a year, such an approach seemed justified. The country has been able to keep the virus at bay better than any other big country, with its strict “zero COVID” approach, which isolates infected people and blocks communities when infections appear.

But now the high-speed omicron option is testing this strategy, which requires increasingly broad and long-lasting blockages that take greater economic and human losses. While other countries may work close to normal because their people are protected by vaccination or previous infection, China is left with only a blocking strategy to avoid huge numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

China may change its mind. The Communist-owned Global Times reported last month that Fosun Pharma is still working with health authorities after its approval, and the Shanghai authorities recently released new policies that could allow the import of vaccines against COVID-19. Fosun, based in Shanghai, did not answer questions about the announcement.

China’s bet on home-grown mRNA vaccines is holding back the nation

Visitors look at giant copies of bottles of the COVID-19 vaccine, including one made with mRNA technology by Sinopharm CNBG’s subsidiary at the China International Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China, on September 5, 2021. More than two years later this Due to the pandemic, China has not approved more effective mRNA vaccines, instead deciding to continue its own path to COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: AP Photo / Ng Han Guan

China’s National Health Commission has sent questions to the country’s drug regulator, the National Medicines Administration. This agency did not respond to a fax request for comment.

Meanwhile, he is hoping for a China-based mRNA vaccine center at Abogen Biosciences, a startup founded in 2019 by Bo Ingam, a U.S.-trained scientist who once worked at Moderna.

The company collaborates with more well-known companies in the country, such as Walvax, a private company founded in 2001, and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, a military medical research base. Since 2020, Abogen has raised more than $ 1.7 billion.

The candidate for the vaccine campaign managed to call immune response in a small preliminary human test designed to assess safety, according to Fr. study published in the Lancet Microbe.

The results were “promising,” said Dr. Vinita Ball, who studies the immune system at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, India, although she said she directly compared the immune response caused by the shot with Pfizer and Moderna. vaccines would help scientists better evaluate its effectiveness.

China’s bet on home-grown mRNA vaccines is holding back the nation

Visitors look at giant copies of COVID-19 vaccine bottles, including those made with mRNA technology by Sinopharm CNBG’s subsidiary at the China International Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China, on September 5, 2021. More than two years later due to the pandemic, China has not approved more effective mRNA vaccines, instead deciding to continue its own path to COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: AP Photo / Ng Han Guan

But large studies that are needed to show whether the injection works to prevent infections or symptoms have not been completed. Abogen did not respond to requests for interviews.

Even if research can be completed and the vaccine proves effective, producing millions of necessary doses will be a challenge, experts say. In December 2020, Abogen built a manufacturing plant with a projected capacity of up to 120 million doses per year.

The production of this vaccine and quality assurance on a scale will be difficult to remove as a barrier because mRNA is still a new technology, said Scott Wilright, chief operating officer at BioInno Bioscience, a Chinese contract manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals that spoke to Abogen.

Meanwhile, Chen, an expert on Yale state health policy, said the Chinese government should better protect its elderly population by endorsing Pfizer. vaccine and encouraging amplifying shots.

Using a Chinese phrase meaning “completely give up,” Chen said the transition from “zero COVID” doesn’t have to be all or nothing. “It doesn’t have to be a tan pin or follow a zero COVID,” Chen said. “I don’t think there are only two solutions and we can stick to the middle.”


WHO has approved the use of the Chinese vaccine CanSino COVID for emergency use


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