China’s pharmaceutical authorities have given “conditional” approval of a second Covid-19 vaccine, Sinovac’s CoronaVac jab, the pharmaceutical company said on Saturday.
The vaccine has already been rolled out to key groups with a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus, but Saturday’s approval allows use by the public.
Conditional approval helps speed up the market for medicines in cases where clinical trials do not yet meet normal standards but indicate that therapies are working.
The approval comes after several domestic and overseas trials with the vaccine in countries including Brazil and Turkey, although “efficacy and safety results need to be further confirmed,” Sinovac said in a statement.
The Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm received a similar conditional green light in December to release its vaccine on the market.
Sinovac said trials in Brazil had shown about 50 percent effectiveness in preventing infection and 80 percent effectiveness in preventing cases requiring medical intervention.
“The results show that the vaccine has good safety and immunogenic effect on people of all ages,” Sinovac said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Sinopharm said in December that its vaccine had an efficiency rate of 79.34 percent, lower than competing jabs developed in the west by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – by 95 and 94 percent, respectively.
China has competed to develop home-grown jabs and aims to vaccinate 50 million people before the lunar New Year in mid-February.
The holiday normally raises a travel noise with hundreds of millions crossing the country – although the authorities encourage people to stay at home this year through a mix of restrictions and incentives.
As China intensifies its vaccine campaign, the authorities have repeatedly assured the public of the safety and efficacy of jabs, despite not providing any detailed clinical trial data.
At the same time, Beijing has promoted its vaccines abroad in what analysts have called “vaccine diplomacy” to earn goodwill after being criticized for its early handling of the outbreak.
China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said it planned to donate 10 million vaccine doses to the WHO – supported international vaccine distribution program Covax.
Beijing has also promised to share the vaccine at a reasonable cost – a potential boost for poorer Asian countries that are otherwise dependent on the limited distribution offered by the Covax system.
Countries including Senegal, Indonesia and Hungary have procured millions of vaccine doses from Chinese pharmaceutical companies.
However, uptake abroad has been slower for Chinese vaccines compared to jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as little information has been published on the safety or efficacy of Chinese vaccines.
Chinese vaccine manufacturers also have a checkered reputation, after major scandals at home with products that have expired or are of poor quality.