China Approves Second Coronavirus Vaccine for Public Use

Sinovac Biotech Ltd. received regulatory approval from Chinese authorities for its coronavirus vaccine to be used by the general public in the country’s second such authorization.

The conditional approval was announced by the National Medical Products Administration on Saturday. Sinovac earlier said the protective efficacy of its vaccine, CoronaVac, met World Health Organization and China regulatory standards 14 days after the completion of two shots.

With the approval, the vaccine can be administered to the general population following one developed by state-owned China National Biotec Group Co. which got permission in December. The Chinese regulator had endorsed CoronaVac for emergency use in July.

China has fallen behind the U.S. and Europe in vaccinating its population. The more than 31.2 million doses administered since its official start date of Dec. 15 put it second only to the U.S., with its nearly 35 million shots. For a population of 1.4 billion, China has delivered a little more than two doses for every 100 people, compared to three in the European Union, 10 in the U.S. and nearly 60 in Israel, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

The effort is also appearing to fall short of an internal target of vaccinating 50 million people by the Chinese New Year holiday that starts Feb. 11. The slowness appears to be due to widespread hesitation across the Chinese population, for reasons ranging from concern over the safety and level of protection promised by the local vaccines, to a lack of urgency, with Covid-19 largely confined to winter flareups in parts of the north.

China’s drug regulators are allowed by law to give conditional approval for new drugs in cases of public health emergency when clinical trial data show they’re safe and effective. The drug developers are then requested to complete their research.

There had been inconsistencies in the publicly announced efficacy rates of CoronaVac, even though it continued to be approved for use in several countries. Trials in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia had shown wildly different efficacy rates ranging from 50.38% to 91.25%.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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