China’s Sinovac expects to complete vaccine trial by November

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DHAKA, June 19, 2020 (BSS) – China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd has said it expected to complete the last phase of its prospective COVID-19 vaccine before November this year claiming the inoculate to have proved “safe and effective” on human so far, US-based ABC News reported today.

“Currently, we are conducting the trial on humans and we expect some preliminary data for Phase I and Phase II to be available within this month,” the report said quoting Sinovac’s senior investor relations director Helen Yang as saying. She told the ABC that the company was following the same three-phase testing protocol used in western countries and so far they tested 144 volunteers in phase I and 600 in phase II.

“The vaccine shows a good safety profile . . . we haven’t seen any severe adverse reaction after using our vaccines,” Yang claimed adding the vaccine could finish phase III trial by the fall.

She said phase III trial need to exhaust a few months for review of the phase II results when “we will know how much of the antibody level can be induced by the vaccine”.

“And then phase III will tell you if the level of antibodies will provide protection,” Yang explained.

Sinovac, however, is yet to update in its website the latest development while the ABC said it was the first US news outlet to have access to the Chinese company’s COVID-19 vaccine study.

The report on the Chinese development with the inoculation came a day after World Health Organization (WHO) said it expected millions of doses of vaccine doses to be produced by the current year and predicted 2 billion by 2021.

The WHO also hoped that the initial doses would be targeted to the most vulnerable people while the world’s leading drug companies, universities and governments are racing to develop a vaccine or vaccines against the coronavirus and halt the global pandemic. WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said researchers were working on more than 200 vaccine candidates around the world while 10 of those were in human testing and “if we’re very lucky, there will be one or two successful candidates before the end of this year”.

She identified three groups most in need of the first wave of vaccine doses saying “you have to start with the most vulnerable and then progressively vaccinate more people”.

Swaminathan categorized the groups as — front-line workers with high exposure, such as medics and police officers; those most vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly and diabetics; and people in high-transmission settings, such as urban slums and care homes.

According to WHO, Sinovac, having a history of vaccine development, is one of at least 11 approved entities across the world to carry out human trial of inoculations.

Sinovac earlier this week announced this week a plan to conduct a phase III clinical trial in Brazil, where infections are increasing — a sign that the vaccine could be on track to begin phase III testing soon.

The United States’ top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, however, tended to be cautious about the prospective Chinese vaccine saying that regulators in the United States and Europe have the most rigorous safety standards in the world for testing and developing new drugs and vaccines.

“I certainly don’t have as much confidence in what comes out of China than I do which comes out of the United States,” Fauci said in an interview with ABC News.

US drug maker Moderna and UK’s Oxford University backed by British drug maker AstraZeneca are two major forerunners in COVID-19 vaccine development, currently carrying out the phase II human trials of their inoculates.

But in another media interview Fauci, however, said just because the Moderna vaccine and another produced by Oxford University appeared to be “temporally ahead,” it did not mean their final results would be the best.

Wealthy countries are placing orders for the treatment before it is even approved as the race for vaccine development intensifies, leaving questions about whether developing nations will get any vaccines in time to save lives.

The British government said that if the Oxford vaccine proved effective, the first 30 million doses would be for Britons while AstraZeneca separately signed deals to make at least 300 million doses available for the US and another 400 million for European Union members.

Beijing earlier promised to make universal its prospective vaccines while Yang said the company was unlikely to keep the vaccines for China alone.

“We are talking to different — many countries, they’re also discussing about doing the trials and then how to secure the using of vaccines to help them,” Yang said but could not assure when the vaccine would be available to the general public.

Sinovac earlier said it stood ready to manufacture 100 million doses but it appeared uncertain how quickly other countries would have access to the vaccine if it proves successful while China’s own population currently stands at nearly 1.4 billion.

UN trade and development agency UNCTAD recently said poorer countries would need to boost local productions to ensure availability of prospective COVID-19 vaccines amid concerns over “who would and would not have access to the shot, if and when one (of the vaccines) is approved”.

“Once a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, the massive demand is likely to outstrip supply quickly,” UNCTAD’s director of investment and enterprise James Zhan said while opening an online seminar with World Health Organization (WHO) three weeks ago.

The UNCTAD statement said the UN agency teamed up with the WHO to seek ways to respond to the poorer economies need to access to the essential COVID-19 medicines including the prospective vaccines.

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