A technician tests a sample of a vaccine for COVID-19 at China National Pharmaceutical Group Co in Beijing. (Photo: Xinhua)
Two experimental vaccines for the novel coronavirus developed by research institutions run by China National Pharmaceutical Group, also known as Sinopharm, have shown positive signs of efficacy and safety, raising hopes that a vaccine could be available as soon as the end of this year.
Meanwhile, Sinopharm is ramping up its vaccine manufacturing capacity, aiming to produce at least 200 million doses of novel coronavirus vaccine a year to increase the accessibility of approved products, according to a statement posted on WeChat on Friday night by the State Council's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which oversees Sinopharm.
The two inactivated vaccines have both "entered the first two phases "of clinical trials, with more than 2,000 human volunteers being injected with one of them, it said.
The vaccines were created by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products in Wuhan, Hubei province, and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products.
Clinical data show their safety and efficacy are "fully verified", and the rates and severity of adverse reactions observed in recipients are much lower than vaccines for other diseases already approved for the market, the statement said.
To complete all three phases of clinical trials and gain approval for public use will take longer.
"At the fastest speed, a vaccine will arrive at the end of this year or the beginning of next year," it said.
The Beijing Institute of Biological Products has also completed the construction of facilities designed to mass-produce inactivated vaccines for the novel coronavirus and has passed preliminary evaluations of its biosecurity level.
The institute's annual production capacity is expected to reach 100 to 120 million doses of vaccine, according to the post. On Saturday, factory workers began thoroughly disinfecting the facilities to prepare for production.
At the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, new facilities will be finished by the end of this month or early next month to increase production capacity, according to the post.
Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm, said that in order to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has been focusing on the type of vaccines whose development technique is mature and controllable.
The potential for the vaccine to be produced on a massive scale and to be made widely accessible has also been taken into consideration.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, global researchers are racing to create a vaccine.
Zhong Nanshan, a renowned Chinese epidemiologist and respiratory disease expert, told China Central Television on Saturday that China is among the leading countries in terms of vaccine development, with five promising vaccines entering the second phase of clinical trials nationwide.
However, he also noted that creating a highly effective vaccine is a lengthy process that demands time-consuming comparison and selection from a pool of candidates.