New Delhi: Chinese vaccine developers are focused on expanding their COVID-19 pipelines to include targeted vaccines with the ability to tackle new variants, in light of the national fourth booster vaccination campaign announced by the National Health Commission (NHC) of China due to the rapid spread of COVID. Currently, Omicron lineages BA.5.2 and BF.7 account for 97.5 percent of all local infections in China, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stated. GlobalData,
According to GlobalData’s Pharmaceuticals Intelligence Center (PIC), there are currently 19 COVID vaccines in clinical development in China, with only three candidates in Phase III trials. Most of these are mRNA vaccines (58 per cent), followed by subunit vaccines (16 per cent), inactivated vaccines (11 per cent), and others including recombinant vector vaccines, and DNA vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged China to increase the adoption of mRNA vaccines, given their high efficacy against variant strains. According to WHO, two doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine, BBIBP-CorV, are 79 percent effective against COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization, compared to roughly 95 percent for two doses of mRNA-based vaccines from either Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. Currently, BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is approved for use only by German nationals living in China, while Moderna’s vaccine has not been granted any type of approval.
Commenting on the need for heterologous booster doses in China, Anupama Mishra, Pharma Analyst, GlobalData said “Currently, 87 percent of the Chinese population has completed a primary homologous vaccination series with two doses of either Sinopharm or Sinovac’s vaccines, while only 55 percent have received a third booster dose, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Both vaccines are inactivated vaccines and are not targeted against the prevailing Omicron variants, This has led to high demand for heterologous booster doses, which differ from the primary vaccine given to fully vaccinated recipients. Chinese regulators must approve or import mRNA vaccines and increase heterologous booster dosing to strengthen their national immunization program.”
GlobalData relayed that 13 homegrown vaccines have been approved for use against COVID-19 in China. In December 2022, Clover Pharmaceutical’s SCB-2019 was granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and was also included in the NHC’s fourth booster dose implementation plan. Clover anticipates long-term demand for SCB-2019 due to the large market opportunity for annual booster doses in China. Since most of the Chinese population has been vaccinated with a homologous vaccine series, high demand is anticipated for new vaccines to administer as heterologous booster doses.
The NHC of China has also announced an upgraded vaccination strategy by expediting research and review of clinical trials for vaccines with the potential to be tailored against omicron variants or designed to target multiple variants in a single dose.