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Sinopharm chairman says vaccines can protect against COVID variants

By ZHANG ZHIHAO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-03-05 07:18
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A man receives a dose of the Sinopharm coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, in Budapest, Hungary on February 26, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Early research shows that the inactivated COVID-19 vaccines produced by Sinopharm can provide protection against 10 mutated variants of SARS-CoV-2, including strains from the United Kingdom and South Africa, said Yu Qingming, Sinopharm's board chairman and a deputy to the National People's Congress.

Many employees of the company received the vaccines last March, and after a year of monitoring, their antibody level still remained relatively high, Yu told People's Daily on Thursday.

On Feb 25, the inactivated vaccine made by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, a Sinopharm affiliate, was granted conditional market approval. It is Sinopharm's second inactivated vaccine to be approved for market use, after the one developed by its subsidiary in Beijing.

"Over 5,000 deputies and members at this year's two sessions have been inoculated with Sinopharm's vaccines. This goes to show the strong trust people have in our vaccines," he said.

However, Yu stressed that as COVID-19 vaccines are a relatively new product, scientists still need more research to definitively determine their efficacy. An inactivated vaccine is an established technique that uses dead viruses to induce an immune response. Some notable examples include the polio, whooping cough, rabies and hepatitis A virus vaccines.

Based on interim analysis of data from phase-3 clinical trials, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health and Prevention said in December that Sinopharm's Beijing-developed vaccine offers an 86 percent protection rate against COVID-19. It also has 100 percent effectiveness in preventing moderate and severe cases of the disease.

Recent experiments show that Sinopharm's vaccine can provide "broad spectrum protection" against mutated strains of COVID-19 viruses, "and can effectively protect against these new variants", said Yu.

The vaccine made by the company's Wuhan affiliate is approved for the inoculation of people age 18 and older, which can include the elderly, Yu said. As for people ages 3 to 17, results from phase-3 trials show the vaccine to be safe and effective, although the findings must be evaluated by the National Medical Products Administration before the vaccine can be given to this age group, he added.

"As of now, 40 countries and regions have approved our vaccines for emergency use. We have also provided nearly 100 million doses to other countries, 60 million of which have been used without any serious adverse effects related to the vaccine."

Sinopharm vaccines have been approved for market use in the UAE, Bahrain, China, Bolivia and Seychelles, Yu said.

The company is continuing to ramp up its vaccine production and should reach an annual production capacity of over 3 billion doses. "It is currently the world's biggest COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer," he said.

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