China vaccines have an ‘appeal’ in developing countries

A demonstrator shows the China National Biotech Group’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate of the Sinopharm Group on 5 September 2020 in Beijing, China, during China’s International Fair for the Trade of Services at Beijing Olympic Park by 2020.

Han Hayden | China News Service | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Developing countries may face a long wait if they want a vaccine made in the West, but always have the option to turn to China, an economist at DBS says.

“Given the dose and risk of billions required [of] “Because of Western vaccines falling in a very long line, the appeal of Chinese vaccines is clear,” said Taimur Baig, chief economist and managing director of DBS Group Research.

There will be a rush to procure western vaccines when they are approved by regulators, and poor countries may find them ineffective.

According to Citi, developed countries have collectively secured 85% of the total bilateral pre-orders of coronovirus vaccines. Citi said countries like the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Japan and the European Union have ordered supplies.

According to the Foreign Ministry, China has five home-grown vaccine candidates in phase three trials. This is usually the last step before the vaccine is approved by government regulators.

Sinopharma or China National Pharmaceutical Group, allegedly submitted an application to Chinese authorities last week and sought approval. The firm has two vaccine candidates, but it is unclear whether both are being considered for regulatory approval.

Beijing has already promised to help countries including Cambodia and Malaysia.

‘Unconventional’ approach

Based on late-stage tests, Modern as well as Pfizer-BioNotech announced this month that their vaccine candidate is more than 90% effective against Kovid-19.

China has not released much data on the efficacy of its home-grown vaccines, and little scientific information about them is readily available. This month the state-controlled Global Times published a story describing China’s vaccines as “very effective”.

According to Reuters, the country has allowed three vaccines to be given to limited groups under an emergency use program. About one million people have received an experimental vaccine developed by Sinopharma, Reuters reported, citing the company.

Such an approach is “unconventional”, said Dale Fisher, a professor at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Lu Lin School of Medicine.

Fischer, chairman of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, said, “It is normal to wait for an analysis of phase three trials before starting a vaccine program through the Emergency Use Authority.”

Fisher told CNBC in an email that such activity would be “unacceptable” in the West, but it could quickly learn about the virus if vaccinators are well monitored.

“They will get a lot of data to achieve this, but it can be difficult to explain in the lack of control,” he said.

Phase 3 testing is best at determining the vaccine’s effectiveness and duration of its effects, he said.

‘Vaccine diplomacy’

Nevertheless, Bebs of DBS said the low cost and Chinese willingness to provide vaccines add to their appeal.

Chinese pharmaceutical companies have relied on older methods than Modern, Pfizer and BioNotech, which use messenger RNA technology. The subsequent production process is more capital-intensive, and vaccines need to be stored at extremely low temperatures, Baig said.

Messenger RNA technology, known as mRNA for short, uses genetic material to trigger the body’s own infection-fighting process.

“Therefore, [Chinese vaccines] He said that it is likely to be competitive and easy to handle costs.

Additionally, China has signed agreements for the testing and production of vaccines in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Mexico.

Beijing also joined Kovacs, a vaccine alliance supported by the World Health Organization, which seeks to provide equal access to all partner countries when a vaccine is developed. The goal is to provide a lifeline to low-income countries that would not otherwise be able to afford these vaccines.

Baig said that China needed a “big diplomatic, image-enhancing victory” in 2021. This may include debt-rollover or partial forgiveness for poor countries.

“But it will be a massive step forward to aggressively prepare and deliver vaccines around the world,” he said, adding that the bank expects a “vaccine diplomacy” from China next year.

– CNBC’s Yen Ni Lee contributed to this report.

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