Shepherding white-hot global vaccine battle, China injects new energy in the world’s fight against COVID-19: observers
China offers to bridge gap of global vaccine shortage
Published: Feb 01, 2021 09:26 PM Updated: Feb 01, 2021 11:01 PM

CanSino Bio Photo:VCG

Amid a white-hot global vaccine battle, where a row caused by the EU and the UK, and US pharmaceuticals over the delayed delivery continues to flare, another Chinese vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics, which guarantees dual protection after only one shot, received promising preliminary signs to continue its Phase-III trials on Monday.

China's fast-pace development of COVID-19 vaccines, and its generosity in offering assistance to other countries' vaccination process, has propelled more countries like Hungary and Germany to cast their vote of confidence in Chinese vaccines. By shepherding vaccine R&D, China is injecting not only vaccines in people's arms, but also new energy in the global fight against the virus, said Chinese experts. 

New vaccine, different approach 

The Ad5-nCOV vaccine candidate developed by CanSino Biologics has met its pre-specified primary safety and efficacy criteria at interim analysis, with no serious adverse events, and the company will continue to advance its Phase-III clinical trials of the vaccine.

The company is expected to obtain interim data of its Phase-III clinical trials from across the world this week, the Global Times learned.

The Phase-III clinical trials of Ad5-nCoV saw more than 40,000 volunteers administered with the vaccine in 78 clinical trial sites across five countries in three continents, according to a notice CanSino Biologics sent to the Global Times on Monday.

Distinct from inactivated vaccines, CanSino's vaccine is effective in only one single dose and can bring dual protection. 

Ad5-nCoV's Phase-II and Phase-III trials have involved elderly participants, with no serious adverse reactions reported, the Global Times learned on Monday from a source close to CanSino.

The vaccine can be stored and transported at temperatures ranging from 2 to 8 C, and the vaccine production does not need the bio-safety level 3 laboratory as required by the manufacturing of inactivated vaccine, which experts said makes them more accessible to developing countries with limited facilities.

The upcoming interim results were collected from data at multiple centers of Phase-III trials across the world, including Russia, Mexico, Pakistan, Argentina, and Chile. It is a global multi-center clinical trial using uniform standards and organizational plans. Each center has a Principal Investigator (PI) and Contract Research Organization (CRO) partner.

CanSino said it has completed case accrual for the interim analysis of the Phase-III clinical trial of Ad5-nCoV, and data from these cases have been submitted to the Independent Data Monitoring Committee (IDMC) for analysis and recommendation. 

The Ad5-nCoV vaccine is a recombinant adenovirus vector vaccine jointly developed by CanSino Biologics and researchers from the Institute of Military Medicine under the PLA Academy of Military Sciences led by Chen Wei.

The COVID-19 vaccines developed by Russia's Sputnik V, British-Swedish pharmaceutical AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson use a similar approach. 

As many potential vaccine recipients have been previously immune to the common cold virus - used as a vector in developing CanSino's vaccine - it may negate the effects of a vaccine for those who had caught the flu, Shao Yiming, one of the chief medical advisors for the R&D of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, told the Global Times on Monday. 

The efficacy is likely to be slightly lower than its counterparts choosing less common virus as vectors such as Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. But the gap is narrow, Shao said.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine's efficacy in preventing symptomatic infections was 70.4 percent, according to interim data, media reported. 

There are 16 Chinese coronavirus vaccines undergoing clinical tests, among which seven has entered Phase-III tests, and one from Sinopharm has been granted conditional market approval, an official from the Ministry of Science and Technology said on Saturday. 

Vaccines developed by Chinese firms Sinovac and Sinopharm are being reviewed for emergency use by the WHO, potentially opening the door to their increased international acceptance.

 Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, told the Global Times that China's COVID-19 vaccines are public goods, and China encourages Chinese vaccine producers to contribute to the global effort to battle the virus.  

On Monday, a batch of China-assisted COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Pakistan, 10 days after Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi promised Pakistan that China would assist Pakistan with vaccines and accelerate vaccines exports to the country.

In addition to Pakistan, China is providing vaccine assistance to 13 developing countries, including Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It also plans to offer help to 38 developing countries, said Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

British Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson said on Monday that all countries should work together, so that developing countries can get a fair distribution of vaccines; and China plays an important role on this issue. 

A volunteer receives a shot during the phase III trials of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, Jan. 8, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

EU's vote of confidence 

In sharp contrast to China's generosity and selflessness to assist other countries' vaccination, the EU has found itself stuck in speeding up the bloc's mass vaccination, due to the delayed delivery of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

After the spat caused tempers to flare, some EU members have given their vote of confidence to Chinese vaccines. After Hungary on Friday issued temporary authorization to Sinopharm, Germany's Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn hinted on Sunday that vaccines from China and Russia could be used in Europe to overcome the current deficit of doses.

Vaccines developed by China will inject new energy to global efforts against the pandemic, Feng told the Global Times on Monday. Feng said that Europe will suffer a shortage in vaccines for a pretty long time, which has prompted those countries to find other sources of vaccines. 

China is ready and willing to offer vaccines to countries in need, and it depends largely on EU countries whether they want to import Chinese vaccines, said Feng, noting that expressing interest also mirrored EU's recognition of Chinese vaccines. 

Chinese vaccines are appealing to EU countries, as they are now facing a huge shortage, and they don't want to put all their eggs in one basket by importing only mRNA vaccines, especially after so many adverse reactions were reported by people inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine, a Beijing-based immunologist who requested anonymity told the Global Times. 

Nearly 4,400 adverse reactions were reported after people received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the US, with 21 cases determined to be anaphylaxis, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December 2020.