Coronavirus vaccine: China can meet demand ‘at home and abroad’

Zhuang Pinghui
·3-min read

China is giving priority to coronavirus inoculation campaigns at home but will still be able to honour promises of vaccines for other countries, according to a senior official in charge of producing the doses.

Tian Yulong, chief engineer with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said domestic needs had taken precedence but with expanded production of four approved vaccines, he was confident that China would be able to meet the combined demand of domestic inoculation, foreign aid and exports.

“We have successfully met demand to give out more than 64 million doses at home. We have also had good feedback about our exports and foreign aid,” Tian said in Beijing on Monday.

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“Domestic vaccine manufacturers are still expanding … we are very confident that we will increase vaccine production capacity at various stages throughout the year.

China started administering Covid-19 vaccines in July last year and has given 64.89 million doses so far, lagging behind the US, which has administered 107 million. Photo: Reuters
China started administering Covid-19 vaccines in July last year and has given 64.89 million doses so far, lagging behind the US, which has administered 107 million. Photo: Reuters

“Our production capacity continues to grow.”

Tian said his confidence was based on China’s “institutional advantages, ability to mobilise industry and highly efficient organisation and people-centred focus [in China’s Covid-19 pandemic strategy]”.

China started administering Covid-19 vaccines in July last year and has given 64.89 million doses so far, lagging behind the US, which has administered 107 million. It aims to inoculate 40 per cent of the population by July and have about 80 per cent of its 1.4 billion people vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, a target restrained by production capacity, according to one of the country’s health chiefs.

Gao Fu, head of China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this month that based on existing production and distribution capacity, the herd immunity target could be reached in the middle of next year – or early next year if output was accelerated.

China has supplied its own vaccines to more than 50 countries and exported doses to 27 nations, according foreign ministry data.

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The four approved vaccines – two by state-owned Sinopharm, and one each from Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics – have all announced staggering production capacity.

Sinopharm’s production capacity is expected to reach 2 billion doses this year and 3 billion doses next year, while Sinovac plans to have 2 billion doses by June. CanSino forecasts that it will reach 500 million doses this year, according to company executives. No company has released details of the output.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences announced on Monday that a Covid-19 vaccine it jointly developed with Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products had been granted approval for emergency use in China. The vaccine, which involved clinical trials in China, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ecuador, uses a new production technology that does not require the use of high-security laboratory.

A nurse injects Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine into an airport worker at a health station in Nantong in east China's Jiangsu province. Photo: AP
A nurse injects Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine into an airport worker at a health station in Nantong in east China's Jiangsu province. Photo: AP

While not offering specifics on capacity or output, Tian said that in principle the country had established a “dynamic, accurate and balanced” mechanism to ensure production met demand.

Tian said the ministry’s experience in organising medical supplies last year to fight the Covid-19 epidemic helped prepare it for vaccine production.

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He said the ministry had organised production, purchasing and supplies of all key links in the chain, from equipment for vaccine production lines to cold chain gear for transport.

“China’s production system is sound and complete. The supply of raw materials for vaccine production is orderly, stable and sufficient, which can meet the existing and future needs of large-scale vaccine production,” Tian said.

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