BioNTech vaccine mass production in China close to ready, may get go-ahead before July
Published: Apr 22, 2021 08:23 PM
The COVID19 vaccine BNT162b2 co-developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech  Photo: Courtesy of BioNTech

The COVID19 vaccine BNT162b2 co-developed by Fosun Pharma and BioNTech Photo: Courtesy of BioNTech

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccine co-developed by German-based BioNTech and China's Fosun Pharma can be rolled out in the Chinese mainland very quickly once it receives authorization, as key steps for mass production are close to ready, the Global Times learned from a source on Thursday.

It is highly likely that the vaccine, named BNT162b2, will be approved in China before July, the source said, noting that relevant preparations including the production plant and cold-chain delivery drills are in progress.

On Wednesday, Shanghai Party chief Li Qiang held a virtual conference with BioNTech founder and CEO Uğur Şahin, a positive sign for the vaccine's landing in the city, some observers said.

The source said that launching of the co-developed vaccine in China will be carried out in three steps: approval for import and marketing, shipment of 100 million doses under an order signed before, and attempts by Fosun Pharma to produce the vaccine in China to meet local demand.

The company is planning a storage plant in the Pudong New Area of Shanghai, which has already been equipped with more than 100 refrigerators for storage, the source said, noting that drills on cold-chain transportation systems have been done many times to prepare for a future launch.

Wednesday's meeting was the second virtual discussion between Shanghai government and BioNTech since October. In the first discussion on October 19, Li appealed to BioNTech and Shanghai-based Fosun Pharma to strengthen cooperation to promote the launch and relevant research at the earliest stage, on the premise of ensuring clinical efficacy and safety. 

"We welcome BioNTech to deepen cooperation with Chinese companies on vaccines and make positive contributions to better safeguard people's lives, safety and health," Li said on Wednesday.

China has five vaccines in use as part of its mass inoculation campaign - three inactivated vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac, a one-shot vaccine from CanSino, and a recombinant subunit vaccine from Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical. 

The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine is expected to be the first foreign-developed COVID-19 vaccine that China will import.

The Global Times learned previously that Fosun Pharm has submitted the clinical trial data and relevant materials to China's state regulator for reviews.

Experts said that approval of such imports could deepen the domestic vaccine pool and help facilitate reciprocal vaccine recognition.

Shao Yiming, China's leading physician-scientist and immunologist serving at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the imported mRNA vaccine would pave the way for mixed jabs in sequential inoculation, considering its efficacy.

The Fosun Pharma/BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for use or emergency use in multiple countries and regions including the US, the UK, Bahrain, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government reached an agreement with Fosun Pharma in 2020 to purchase up to 7.5 million doses of the vaccine. 

The partnership and co-development of mRNA technology between Fosun Pharma and BioNTech is expected to be further applied in cross-national cooperation on more medical projects such as cancer vaccines, the source suggested.