China approves its first Covid vaccine – developed by state-owned drug company

China's first Covid-19 vaccine has been approved to treat 50 million people by the Lunar New Year.

State-owned pharmaceutical company, Sinopharm announced the breakthrough on Thursday with the vaccine said to be 79% effective, based on interim analysis of Phase III clinical trials .

The price of the vaccine developed by the Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of a Sinopharm subsidiary, will depend on the scale of use according to Vice Minister of the National Health Commission, Zeng Yixin.

However it is understood to be made free for the public in China.

High-priority groups will be first in line for vaccinations which could reach as many as 50 million people before the Lunar New Year holiday in February.

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Reuters reports developing countries will be taking particular interest in the vaccine produced by China as they have limited early access to shots from Western drug makers.

Dong-yan Jin, a professor at the University of Hong Kong said: "China's approval could boost the credibility of the vaccine.

"But if the vaccine wants to take a share in the global market, especially in developed countries, more data is necessary."

Health experts warn that if one vaccine is rolled out without enough evidence of its efficacy, then confidence in all of them could suffer as a result.

The same Sinopharm shot announced by the United Arab Emirates on December 9 has a much higher 86% rate based on data which a spokeswoman declined to explain.

Public health professor at the University of Hong Kong, Benjamin Cowling said: "I think it's very positive news. The results for other COVID vaccines … were also released initially in very short press releases, and within a few weeks more details were provided."

China's President Xi Jinping has pledged to make its vaccines a global public good and has won several large supply deals with countries including Indonesia and Brazil, MailOnline reports.

But none of the Chinese drug makers has yet to release detailed efficacy data.

Ooi Eng Eong, an immunology professor at the National University of Singapore, said: "Data can only be interpreted when key details, such as the study design, number of participants, period of observation and number of cases, are described."

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