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China's Sinopharm says its Covid-19 vaccine is 79% effective
01:41 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

China approved its first homegrown coronavirus vaccine for general public use on Thursday, with officials promising to provide the general public with free inoculations.

The approval comes a day after its manufacturer, state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, said the vaccine is 79.34% effective, citing interim analysis of Phase 3 clinical trials.

Though no detailed efficacy data for the vaccine has been released, the decision to grant approval underscores claims made by Chinese officials in recent weeks over the safety and effectiveness of the country’s domestically produced vaccine candidates.

China is aiming to inoculate 50 million people with domestic Covid-19 vaccines ahead of February’s Lunar New Year celebrations. It has also drastically scaled up its vaccine emergency use program in recent weeks.

Zeng Yixin, vice-minister of China’s National Health Commission, said at a news conference Thursday that the Sinopharm vaccine will be provided free of charge to Chinese citizens.

“Vaccine is a public good by its nature, and the price may vary based on the scale of use, but an important premise is that it will be provided to the public for free,” Zeng said.

Since December 15, more than 3 million vaccine doses have been administered to “key groups,” Zeng said. That’s on top of the 1.5 million doses administered to “high-risk groups” by the end of November, he added.

Among those inoculated, fewer than 0.1% developed a light fever, and about two people per million developed “relative serious adverse reactions” such as allergies, according to Zeng.

The next step is to inoculate vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people with underlying diseases, before vaccinating the general population, Zeng said, without offering more details on how the vaccines will be provided for free.

A Sinopharm company executive said Thursday the vaccine’s Phase 3 trials covered more than 60,000 people, while detailed data will be released later and published in scientific journals at home and abroad.

An official with China’s drug regulator said the vaccine’s clinical trials are still ongoing, and its manufacturer will be required to submit follow-up data to authorities.

The Sinopharm vaccine is less effective than those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which have an efficacy rate of about 95%. Russia says its Sputnik V vaccine is 91% effective.

And the vaccine’s efficacy rate of 79% is lower than the 86% announced by the United Arab Emirates for the same vaccine on December 9. The UAE based its results on an interim analysis of late-stage clinical trials conducted there from July. It has since approved the vaccine for public use.

The Sinopharm vaccine has a higher efficacy rate than the one developed by the UK’s Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which averaged 70%. On Wednesday, the UK became the first country to approve that vaccine for public distribution.