Jan 23, 2021 06:10 AM

China’s CanSino Offers Pakistan 20 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses

Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) — CanSino Biologics Inc. offered 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Pakistan as it prepares to release efficacy results “in a few days” from Phase 3 trials recently completed in the South Asia nation, according to the Chinese company’s local partner.

The maker of a single-shot inoculation will be giving Pakistan preferential access and pricing, said Hasan Abbas Zaheer, technical adviser at AJM Pharma Pvt., the local partner. It has already applied for approval from Pakistan’s drug regulator.

“We need to keep in mind that this coronavirus vaccine is a very scarce commodity, highly in demand, and you know the other countries many months ago started the advance booking,” Zaheer said in a phone interview. “Once Pakistan does a booking, we will be in a position to know the delivery. I am sure the delivery will be much before other manufacturers.”

The company also plans to decrease its costs 25% by filling vials locally.

Concern is mounting over a growing vaccine disparity between rich and poor nations, which the World Health Organization’s Director-General called a “catastrophic moral failure.” Pakistan is not among the 51 nations that have started administering shots despite being the fifth-most populous country globally with 217 million people, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

The South Asian country has already ordered 1.2 million doses from Chinese state-backed vaccine developer Sinopharm, manufactured by its China National Biotec Group Co. unit, with deliveries to start Jan. 31. It also approved AstraZeneca Plc.’s shot for private use.

Results from the Phase 3 trials in Pakistan are likely to be the earliest indication of the CanSino vaccine’s protection level against Covid-19. A high efficacy level would add another weapon against the pandemic, though other Chinese vaccines have been greeted with some skepticism because of confusing trial data.

Chinese developers have trailed behind Western frontrunners in reporting test results. As China has been able to mostly control its coronavirus outbreaks, CanSino and other Chinese developers have had to search abroad for Phase 3 testing sites. CanSino eventually started late-stage trials in Pakistan, Russia, Argentina, Mexico and Chile.

Pakistan is going through a second wave of infections that caused a peak in hospitalizations and deaths last month. Still, the nation has largely been spared the sweeping outbreaks of its neighbors Iran and India. Total Pakistan cases number 527,000, and fatalities more than 11,000.

The CanSino trial in Pakistan completed enrollment of 17,500 participants a few days ago, after the target was increased from 10,000. Only minor side effects among volunteers have been recorded so far, such as low-grade fever and body aches for one or two days, Zaheer said.

CanSino also agreed to supply 35 million doses to Mexico while Malaysia is in talks to get 3.5 million shots.

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