China approves first Covid-19 vaccine, makes it free for all citizens

It has an efficacy rate of 79.32 per cent.

Kayla Wong | January 01, 2021, 11:14 AM

China has approved its first Covid-19 vaccine, and will be making it free for the general public.

Lower efficacy rate than Pfizer and Moderna vaccined

The two-dose vaccine, developed by state-backed pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, has an efficacy of 79.32 per cent against the disease, the firm said in a statement on Wednesday, Dec. 30.

Trials conducted in the United Arab Emirates previously put the vaccine's efficacy rate at 86 per cent.

The Sinopharm vaccine has a lower efficacy than the Pfzier-BioNTech and Modern vaccines, which are rated 95 per cent and 94.5 per cent respectively.

U.S. regulators have set the minimum standard for emergency authorisation of Covid-19 vaccines at 50 per cent efficacy.

Even so, the low incidence of side effects from Sinopharm's vaccine was "impressive", John Donnelly, principal with U.S.-based Vaccinology Consulting, told South China Morning Post.

Vulnerable groups to be given the shots first

Chinese health officials said vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, will be prioritised first, Caixin Global reported.

Already, some 1.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the country.

Approval of the Chinese vaccine also means countries with inadequate facilities for storing the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines might have a better chance of receiving it for inoculation against Covid-19.

This is because while the Pfizer and Moderna shots have strict cold chain storage requirements, the Sinopharm vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures of 2 to 8°C.

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Top image via Xinhua