China Expected to Approve BioNTech Vaccine in June, AmCham Says

China is expected to approve BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccine in June, according to the head of American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, Ker Gibbs.

The Shanghai government has told the group, known as AmCham, that it expects the shot to be approved “somewhere in the June time frame,” he said, citing a direct conversation with the Vice Mayor Zong Ming. “We think before July,” Gibbs said. “We’re not going to hold her to June 1st or June 30th, but in that time frame is what we’re expecting.”

The shot, which will be rolled out by Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., is likely to be the first of the highly effective mRNA vaccines approved in mainland China. It’s availability will help alleviate supply shortages currently faced by the world’s most populous country, which has set a target of vaccinating 40% of the nation, or some 560 million people, by the end of June.

Limited Supply

Supply shortfalls recently slowed the pace of China’s immunization push, following an acceleration in late March that was spurred by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan’s call to ramp up a nationwide vaccination campaign. An average of 3.5 million shots a day have been given for the past week, according to data released by the National Health Commission, while the country needs to administer more than 5.3 million doses a day to meet its the June target.

With the supply bottleneck remaining a pressure point, authorities have devised several ways to make vaccinations available to more people. Those measures include prioritizing distribution in densely populated and developed cities, and extending the interval between the two doses needed to achieve full immunization.

Fosun secured the rights from BioNTech SE to exclusively develop and market the shot in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Pfizer Inc. sells the vaccine in other places. The messenger RNA vaccine works by delivering genetic instructions for making the virus’s spike protein inside healthy cells, which spurs an immune response. The mRNA shots have higher effectiveness rates than immunization from domestic makers, including those from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm Group Co.

Pre-Registering

Fosun indicated a price of roughly 1000 yuan ($154) for two doses in December, according to Gibbs, and they haven’t had further talks about costs since then.

Some 40,000 people have expressed an interest in getting the BioNTech shot in an AmCham Shanghai survey, conducted to help Fosun pre-register people in the community.

“We’re having ongoing conversations with Fosun and we have high confidence in their ability to efficiently distribute the vaccine once it’s approved,” Gibbs said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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