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China considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines to boost protection rate

China has developed four domestic vaccines approved for public use and an official said on Saturday that the country will likely produce 3 billion doses by the end of the year.

April 11, 2021 / 08:49 PM IST
Reuters

Reuters

China's top disease control official has said the country is formally considering mixing COVID-19 vaccines, as a way of further boosting vaccine efficacy.

Available data shows Chinese vaccines lag behind others including Pfizer and Moderna in terms of efficacy, but require less stringent temperature controls during storage.

The currently available vaccines "don't have very high rates of protection", Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a conference in the Chinese city of Chengdu on Saturday.

"Inoculation using vaccines of different technical lines is being considered," he said.

Gao said that taking steps to "optimise" the vaccine process including changing the number of doses and the length of time between doses was a "definite" solution to the efficacy issues.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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China has developed four domestic vaccines approved for public use and an official said on Saturday that the country will likely produce 3 billion doses by the end of the year.

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's Sinovac was found to have an efficacy rate of slightly above 50% in Brazilian clinical trials. A separate study in Turkey said it was 83.5% effective.

No detailed efficacy data has been released on a vaccines made by China's Sinopharm. It has said two vaccines developed by its units are 79.4% and 72.5% effective respectively, based on interim results.

Both vaccine makers have presented data on their COVID-19 vaccines indicating levels of efficacy in line with those required by the World Health Organization, a WHO panel said in March.

China has shipped millions of its vaccines abroad, and officials and state media have fiercely defended the shots while calling into question the safety and logistics capabilities of other vaccines.

"The global vaccine protection rate test data are both high and low," Gao told state tabloid Global Times on Sunday.

"How to improve the protection rate of vaccines is a problem that requires global scientists to consider," Gao said, adding that mixing vaccines and adjusting immunisation methods are solutions that he had proposed.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
Reuters
first published: Apr 11, 2021 08:48 pm

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