Guru Gyan
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Guru Gyan

Let’s Talk About China’s COVID-19 Vaccines

How is China’s race to create a COVID-19 vaccine going and where has the country reached?

Everyone around the world is waiting for a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. With most people’s eyes fixed on Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines, there are some parts of the world that are looking forward to China’s COVID-19 vaccines. But why?

The Distribution Dilemma

The biggest challenge with vaccinating millions of people is distributing the vaccine safely across the globe. In order to distribute the vaccines safely, they need to be kept at a certain temperature. Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped at -70 Celsius. It can become expensive.

But how? Keeping the vaccines cold for a long duration needs a vast network of airport freezer warehouses, refrigerated trucks and on-site freezers that can cost up to $10,000. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be distributed at -20 Celsius, which is roughly equal to the temperature of a home freezer.

The vaccine by AstraZeneca only needs to be kept between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius, which is roughly the temperature of a home refrigerator. At this point, many are pinning their hopes on AstraZeneca’s vaccine because of how easily it can be distributed. However, in late November, some experts raised some questions on AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

According to BBC News, some participants were mistakenly given half a dose rather than a full dose in their first round of shots. This has led to the criticism from experts who are saying that AstraZeneca combined the efficacy results from what’s essentially two different trials. Experts are also saying that the firm will need to conduct another trial properly analysing the effectiveness of the half-dose full-dose regimen.

China’s COVID-19 Vaccines

Two of the country’s vaccines are being developed by the state-run China National Pharmaceutical Group or Sinopharm. Sinopharm’s vaccines were the first among the Chinese vaccines to commence human trials, beginning in the middle of July in the United Arab Emirates.

Sinovac’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine called CoronaVac is one of three experimental COVID-19 vaccines. Sinovac has stated that it would be able to manufacture 300 million vaccine doses annually and it looks to conclude the construction of a second production facility by the end of 2020 to hike annual COVID-19 vaccine production capacity to 600 million doses.

Just like AstraZeneca, Sinovac’s vaccine can be stored and shipped at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 degree Celsius. Chinese state media reports stated that Sinopharm’s candidates can likely be stored at a similar 2 to 8 degree Celsius range. So, Chinese vaccines are a good bet during these times.

The Demand

If you are wondering what countries are approaching China to get access to its vaccines, then let us clear that up for you. It is said that the demand for Chinese vaccines has mostly come from low or middle-income countries with a few exceptions.

According to pre-orders tracked by a Duke University initiative, Chile has signed up for 60 million doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, which is its biggest order of any of the vaccines. Indonesia has placed 50 million orders for it and the country has also ordered 60 million doses of one of the vaccines developed by Sinopharm. Turkey has placed orders for 20 million doses (which might go up to 50 million). Also, at least two countries in the Middle East have given authorisation to the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use for healthcare workers and other priority individuals.

However, the only catch with China’s COVID-19 vaccines is that we do not know how much effective they are. But we might get the answers soon. Brazil’s Butantan Institute is conducting a Phase 3 trial of CoronaVac in the country and said that Sinovac was anticipated to publish efficacy results from its vaccine trials by December 15. So, let’s see how effective the vaccines are and how it can help expedite in controlling the virus worldwide.

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