A shipment of nearly 980,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines donated by domestic drugmaker China National Biotech Group through COVAX left for Pakistan in the early hours of Monday as part of China's effort to help the rest of the world tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.
The doses, the first sent in a 170 million dose agreement, were packaged on Friday evening at a Beijing unit of CNBG, a subsidiary of State-owned Sinopharm. They were sent to cold storage at an airport on Saturday, awaiting a security check and customs clearance.
"With the first batch of our COVID-19 vaccines under COVAX having been shipped, the company is gradually delivering on its promise to provide vaccines to COVAX," CNBG said in a statement released on Monday.
COVAX is an international program that distributes vaccines to low- and middle-income countries to boost global vaccine equity.
The inactivated COVID-19 vaccine developed by CNBG's Beijing unit received emergency use authorization from the World Health Organization－necessary for COVAX suppliers－on May 7, and the first batch allocated for the program rolled off the production line on June 1.
On July 7, CNBG's Beijing unit signed an agreement with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or Gavi, a co-leader of COVAX, pledging to supply more than 170 million doses to the program.
Under the agreement, the company will deliver 60 million doses to COVAX from July through October, and Gavi has the option to purchase 60 million doses in the fourth quarter and another 50 million in the first half of next year.
CNBG said that after its second production line obtains WHO approval, it will provide the line's annual 1 billion dose capacity to COVAX.
Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm, CNBG's parent company, said recently that CNBG is the only entity in the world that owns the intellectual property and has created three COVID-19 vaccines making use of two different technologies.
The company's COVID-19 vaccines have gained market approval in eight countries and obtained emergency use authorization or market access in 93 countries, regions and international organizations.
The Sinovac Biotech vaccine has also received WHO approval to supply COVAX. The Chinese company has developed an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine and will ship the initial 50 million doses from July to September. Gavi is authorized to buy 330 million more doses from it by the first half of next year.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said during an online forum on vaccine cooperation on Thursday that China will deliver more than 100 million doses to COVAX by the end of October and make good use of the $100 million donation to the program, announced by President Xi Jinping on Thursday, to benefit developing economies.