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Monday, July 15, 2024

Chinese COVID-19 vaccines in advanced human trials

Chinese firms are racing ahead of Western competitors to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Succesful human trials for their products have been conducted in Pakistan and many other countries. Will Pakistan be the first country Chinese firms market their product to?

Chinese pharmaceutical firms Sinopharm and Sinovac are in the advanced stage of the race to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Medical experts believe that the scope of the human testing of their products is much larger than that of Western firms like Pfizer that claim to have achieved a more than 90% success rate with their COVID-19 vaccines.

Company executives at the two firms are still yet to give the go-ahead to the commercial development of these vaccines despite promising results, according to American news outlet NPR. The two Chinese firms have held trials for their vaccine not only inside China, but also in other countries, like Pakistan, the Philippines, and Brazil.

Sinopharm has administered the virus vaccine to at least 100,000 people, and 56,000 of these have traveled abroad to virus-hit hotspots without catching the virus, Chinese daily Global Times reports. No adverse effects of the vaccine have yet been reported, the chairman of the firm told the daily in early November.

Read more: WHO chief warns against ‘vaccine nationalism’

Chinese ahead of Western competitors for COVID-19 vaccine?

Although Western firms have been cautious in the trial for their vaccines, Chinese companies have started giving preventive emergency use vaccination to Chinese citizens traveling abroad to places like Europe, Americas, and Africa. According to media reports, volunteers, that include state officials, have been given the vaccine as well for the trials.

The essential difference between the vaccines developed by the Chinese firms and their Western counterparts is the temperature at which they have to be stored for effective usage. Companies like Pfizer and Moderna, both of whom have claimed a more than 90% success in human trials, say their vaccine needs to be stored at low temperatures.

According to reports, Moderna claims their vaccine can be stored between 2-8 degrees Celsius for several days. But Pfizer has affirmed that long-term storage of the product it has developed requires extreme temperatures in the range of 70 degrees Celsius below the freezing point. Chinese firms have not yet revaled storage information of their products.

The vaccines of companies like Moderna and Pfizer boost the immune system of the human body by increasing the production of mRNA proteins. Since the novel virus is also of the same type, these proteins can then effectively fight the virus. This indicates that all the vaccines being developed by these firms are not only preventive but also a cure.

Read more: Why Pfizer vaccine is not for Pakistan?

Will Pakistan prefer Chinese firms for virus vaccine?

Sinopharm has also been experimenting with their vaccine in Pakistan. Sources that GVS spoke to on the subject have stressed that the firm has conducted successful trials for their vaccine in the country. According to these sources, the vaccine developed by the Chinese is not only preventive but can also treat those suffering from the virus.

Doctors in the capital Islamabad, speaking to GVS, have expressed reservations over the early trials of the vaccine. Doctors say that they have been dealing with cases of people who were infected with the coronavirus earlier this year, and have now been re-affected. Doctors stress that the true nature of this virus is still unclear.

Since Pakistan is already at Level-III stage of the vaccine trials, medical experts believe that as soon as the Chinese firms are given the green light to develop the vaccines commercially, Islamabad will most likely prefer to buy the product from Chinese companies like Sinopharm that have already conducted trials in the country.

The cost at which the vaccine will be available in Pakistan is still not clear. According to reports, Chinese firms have been selling the COVID-19 vaccine at $60 per piece, but it is expected that when the firms develop their product commercially, the price will fall. The UN and WHO have pledged to drive down the price of the vaccine for developing nations.

Reports in the US media indicate that the Trump administration has already signed a multi-billion dollar contract with Pfizer to obtain their vaccine. The US already has similar agreements with other firms like Moderna. Pakistan has also set aside some money for the purchase of the vaccine, most likely from a Chinese firm sometime next year.

Read more: Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine 90% effective in Phase 3 trial

How effective are Pfizer, Moderna vaccines?

Pfizer last week announced that early analysis of its coronavirus vaccine trial suggested the vaccine was robustly effective in preventing COVID-19 and 90 percent effective in the Phase 3 trial. The report comes at a time when the entire world is desperately waiting for any positive news about the pandemic which has claimed over 1.2 million people.

“The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” he added.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most,” Bourla added. According to the New York Times, Pfizer released only sparse details from its clinical trial, based on the first formal review of the data by an outside panel of experts.

If the results hold up, that level of protection would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles. The report further adds that the company has planned to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine after it has collected the recommended two months of safety data.

The United States’ top infectious disease scientist on Monday hailed early results from Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine trial as “stunningly impressive,” calling the findings an emphatic validation of experimental mRNA technology that some had doubted.

“I must admit that I would have been satisfied with 70 or at the most 75 percent efficacy,” he told the media. “The idea that we have a 94.5 percent effective vaccine is stunningly impressive. It is really a spectacular result that I don’t think anybody had anticipated would be this good,” he added to reporters.

The vaccine is based on a relatively new technology that uses a synthetic version of a molecule called “messenger RNA” to hack into human cells, and effectively turn them into vaccine-making factories. “There were many people who had reservations about using something that had not been tried and true over the years,” Fauci noted.

On Monday, Moderna announced their preliminary results based on 95 of the 30,000 volunteers they had recruited who fell ill with COVID-19. Of the 95, 90 had been in the trial’s placebo group, and five in the group that received the drug, called mRNA-1273, translating to an efficacy rate of 94.5 percent.

GVS News Desk with additional input from other sources