China to test efficacy and safety of domestic mRNA vaccine as booster shot
Published: Nov 11, 2021 12:57 AM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese authorities have approved the clinical trials on the efficacy and safety of domestic mRNA booster for inactivated vaccines, according to media reports on Wednesday.

The project has been approved by the disease control and prevention center of South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It will focus on people aged 18 and above who have been inoculated with two inactivated vaccine shots, according to the announcement on the website of the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

The mRNA candidate shot to be used in the trials is called ARCoVax, which was jointly developed by the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, Suzhou Abogen and Yunnan Walvax Biotechnology Co, media confirmed on Wednesday. 

Zhang Li, spokesperson from Walvax, told media that the project is part of the Phase III clinical trials of ARCoVax, which is being conducted both in Guangxi and abroad, including Mexico and Indonesia. 

The announcement of the project boosted Walvax's shares by about 13 percent on Wednesday afternoon. 

Observers are also expecting that the authorization of the first domestic mRNA vaccine could come out soon. 

On Saturday, Walvax's partner Suzhou Abogen already informed that their mRNA vaccine production line located in an industry park in Suzhou had obtained official authorization. The facility is able to produce 40 million shots per year. 

Once put into use, the possibility of using it as booster shot would not be ruled out, observers said. 

Zeng Guang, former Chief Epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Thursday at a forum in Shanghai that data collected in various countries have proved that using mRNA or recombinant vaccines as booster shots both could provide good efficacy.

"China should explore various combinations to explore the best vaccination strategy," Zeng noted. 

The mRNA developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is also applying for authorization with Chinese authorities. Their Chinese partner is Fosun Pharma in Shanghai. 

Compared with BioNTech's mRNA vaccine, ARCovax is much safer as the selection of the vaccine antigen target is more precise and the neutralizing antibodies induced are higher, according to media reports.

The storage costs of this vaccine are lower than imported shots as it comes in a single injection in one package and can be stored at room temperature for a week or at 4 C for an extended time making it easier to use. 

These factors make this domestic ARCoVax product stand out from Western mRNA vaccines made by pharmaceutical giants Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which require much lower storage temperatures and more rigorous temperature controls, experts said.