China has approved for conditional use its first coronavirus vaccine, developed by state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm.
The approval, announced on Thursday by the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council, came a day after Sinopharm said its vaccine was found to be 79.3-per-cent effective in preliminary data from the final round of testing.
China aims to vaccinate at least 50 million people before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday, in mid-February, in order to prevent the virus from spreading as hundreds of millions of people are expected to travel home for the holidays.
The Sinopharm vaccine is an inactivated, two-dose vaccine. Besides Sinopharm, three other Chinese companies, Anhui Zhifei Longcom, CanSino, and Sinovac, have vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials.
Chen Shifei, the deputy director of China’s National Medical Products Administration, said at a press conference on Thursday that the agency urges Sinopharm to continue to monitor the durability and effects of the vaccine.
Sinopharm’s vaccine efficacy rate is behind those reported by US companies Pfizer, of 95 per cent, and Moderna, of 94 per cent. However, unlike the US vaccines, which need to be stored at temperatures as low as minus 70 degrees Celsius, the Chinese vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperature.
China has pledged to make its vaccine available to other developing countries.
Thousands across the country, including members of the military and government workers, started receiving coronavirus vaccines months ago through emergency-use approvals.