China approves its first coronavirus vaccine

china vaccine coronavirus sinopharm
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A year to the day after COVID-19 first surfaced in Wuhan, China, the Chinese government approved the first coronavirus vaccine for general use in China on Dec. 31. 

The vaccine, created by the state-controlled Sinopharm company, has an efficacy rate of 79%, based on an interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials, according to the New York Times. The vaccine has already been in circulation on a trial basis in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and has been used in an even more widespread capacity throughout China. 

According to the Times’ reporting, Chinese authorities cited emergency use in initiating mass vaccinations “before any of the country’s vaccine candidates received official approval, in defiance of industry norms.” A National Health Commission official said on Dec. 31 that more than 3 million doses of China’s multiple vaccine candidates have already been administered. That’s part of an effort to vaccinate 50 million people prior to the Lunar New Year holiday in February. 

CNN reported that, according to National Health Commission vice-minister Zeng Yixin, fewer than 0.1% of those vaccinated in China developed a light fever, with about two people per million developing “relative serious adverse reactions” such as allergies. 

Though the vaccine’s efficacy rate is below the two American-developed coronavirus vaccines in circulation, the Sinopharm vaccine is poised to have a role in how the world fights the pandemic in 2021. Chinese officials have promised priority access to a number of developing nations. 

The Sinopharm vaccines do not require freezing temperatures for storage, which allows it to be transported and distributed more easily, particularly for nations without the technology to store the more temperature-sensitive vaccines. 

This news comes as China reported its first case of the new coronavirus variant that first surfaced in the United Kingdom, now appearing in a growing list of nations including the United States and Canada. DW reported that a 23-year-old Chinese student, returning from Britain, was tested in Shanghai on December 14. 

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Sources: The New York Times, CNN, DW 

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