News: Analysis: China’s ambitious COVID-19 vaccination plan to test its production capability.
BEIJING (Reuters) – China plans to vaccinate at least half a billion of its population against COVID-19 in four months. This challenge will test the country’s vast industrial might and accelerate efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world.
According to Reuters calculations, China could increase capacity enough to vaccinate the world’s largest population and hundreds of millions of people in dozens of countries from Africa to Latin America.
Little is known, however, about the full capacity of the three approved domestic manufacturers – a lack of information that leaves a big question mark in global efforts to end the pandemic that is emerging in central China.
“It is important for the public to understand what the government is doing, what the private sector is doing, how quickly or slowly it is doing,” said US researcher Jennifer Pancorbo.
More accurate production dates, which help people get a sense of whether footage will be available in May or July, will have an impact on planning their return to normal life, said Pancorbo, director of industrial programs and research at the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center from North Carolina State University.
China got off to an early start, invoking emergency vaccine use approval in July. But it vaccinated less than 4% of its population, way behind countries like Israel, Britain, and the United States as it was primarily focused on preventing transmission.
Now Beijing is shifting gears and plans to vaccinate 40% of its 1.4 billion people by the end of June.
With 65 million doses given as of Sunday, China will have to administer an average of 4 million shots a day to meet this goal.
According to data from vaccine developers, according to Reuters calculations, manufacturers could achieve an annual capacity of 3.6 billion doses by the end of the year: 3.1 billion doses of the three approved vaccines, which require double injections and 500 million single-dose syringes.
That would be enough to vaccinate China’s entire population and fulfill its commitment to deliver at least 463 million doses overseas through donations and exports.
However, none of the manufacturers of the approved vaccines – China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), CanSino Biologics Inc. (CanSinoBIO), or Sinovac Biotech Ltd – have detailed how many doses they produce since their last scale-up.
“Chinese vaccine manufacturers are still expanding, and as production capacity continues to be released, production will gradually increase,” said Tian Yulong, an official with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technologysaid a press conference on Monday.
At the request of Reuters, he declined to disclose China’s vaccine production rate or supply.
Even if they have enough capacity and disruptions to the supply of raw materials and key components occur, they are unlikely to be able to run their factories at full speed, experts warn.
“HARD TO PREDICT”
“All the vials, boxes, syringes, needles, all that stuff, where does it come from?” Harris Makatsoris, Professor of Sustainable Manufacturing Systems at King’s College London, said, “The question is whether these companies have the capacity to serve both the domestic and global markets.”
Sinovac said in early February that its finished product manufacturing capacity was lagging behind its mass production capacity, but overseas partners could help fill vials and syringes for mass vaccines.
A Sinovac spokesman told Reuters that he did not expect a shortage of vials and could expand production quickly if China or other countries accept a larger vial that could contain multiple doses of its vaccine.
Unlike AstraZeneca PLC, which uses 10 doses in one vial, and Pfizer Inc, which uses five doses, Sinovac uses a single-dose vial or syringe.
Sinopharm and CanSinoBIO did not respond to Reuters requests for comments.
Global drug manufacturers are struggling as they meet the unprecedented demands of competing countries at record speed.
Gao Fu, head of China’s Disease Control and Prevention Center, believes China has sufficient manufacturing capacity to meet its goals, but cautions that translating capacity into products that meet standards is complicated is.
Before mass production begins, a newly built line must go through test runs and fine-tuning, which can affect the production schedule, making it difficult to disclose accurate production rates.
“You can produce a batch that doesn’t meet the requirements and then you have to run it again and change something,” said Zoltan Kis, a researcher at Imperial College London who specializes in vaccine manufacturing. “It’s the same all over the world, not just in China.”
Established Western vaccine makers have got into production – AstraZeneca is increasingly angry as it falls far short of meeting its obligations to supply the European Union.
“Companies have consistently overestimated their ability to manufacture and supply vaccines,” said Jerome Kim, director general of the nonprofit International Vaccine Institute.
While China faces other challenges in its vaccination campaign, Kim said it would “worry about delivery first, then delivery, and finally acceptance”.
Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo in Beijing and Miyoung Kim in Singapore, editing by William Mallard
Original Source © Reuters