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China grants conditional approval to second COVID-19 vaccine

China's drug regulator has given approval for the conditional mass use of the coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech.

February 06, 2021 / 07:39 PM IST

China has granted conditional approval for its second COVID-19 vaccine, ahead of the expected emergency approval from the WHO for two of its jabs that would enable the country to step-up global supplies of the shots.

China's drug regulator has given approval for the conditional mass use of the coronavirus vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech. Sinovac Biotech announced on Saturday that CoronaVac, an inactivated vaccine candidate against COVID-19, received authorisation from the National Medical Products Administration for conditional mass use in China.

It is the second locally made vaccine to be given conditional approval. Beijing authorised the state-owned Sinopharm's vaccine in December. The conditional approval was based on the results of the overseas Phase-III clinical trials of CoronaVac. Final data from the trials has not been made available yet and the results of its efficacy and safety require further confirmation, state-run Global Times said, quoting a Sinovac statement.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said two Chinese vaccines are "in a very advanced stage" of its Emergency Use Listing Procedure (EUL) assessment. The vaccines, produced by Sinovac and Sinopharm, are among the four vaccines in very advanced phase of approval, Mariangela Simao, assistant WHO Director-General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals, said in Geneva.

A team of experts from the WHO are now already in China, and they "will start inspections next week" as they are currently in quarantine, she said. So far, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received EUL approval. Two other vaccines — Britain's AstraZeneca and South Korea's SK Bioscience — are also being assessed, Simao said.


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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According to WHO, 238 candidate vaccines are being developed worldwide — 63 of them in clinical trials in various countries. China is currently testing 16 vaccines which are in different stages of trials. It has vaccinated over 32 million people at home so far.

China has offered to provide 10 million COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, a global initiative, which aims at ensuring that middle and lower-income countries get timely access to coronavirus vaccines.
first published: Feb 6, 2021 07:39 pm

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