Caixin
Jul 14, 2021 09:50 PM
CHINA

China Exports 500 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses in First Half

A Shipment of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Bangkok in February.
A Shipment of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Bangkok in February.

Despite concerns over efficacy and safety, China has become the world’s largest exporter of Covid-19 vaccines.

In the first half of this year, China exported more than 500 million doses of its vaccines to 112 countries and territories, accounting for one-sixth of the global output of Covid-19 vaccines, customs data show.

China’s exports of coronavirus vaccines have exceeded total exports from all other vaccine-making countries, according to London-based science information and analytics firm Airfinity.

Doses produced by Chinese companies for the Covax program led by the World Health Organization (WHO have rolled off assembly lines and will be delivered soon, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Monday at a routine press conference. Chinese vaccine companies have also started joint production in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan and Mexico, with production capacity exceeding 200 million doses, Zhao said.

Covax signed agreements with two Chinese pharmaceutical companies, Sinopharm and Sinovac, to buy more than a half-billion of their Covid-19 vaccines by the first half of next year, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) said Monday. Gavi runs Covax along with the WHO.

Under the recently signed purchase agreements, state-owned Sinopharm Group and Sinovac Life Sciences Co. Ltd. will supply 110 million doses of vaccines to Covax over the next four months, with options for additional doses, Zhao said Tuesday. As of June 30, Sinovac delivered more than 1 billion doses worldwide, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Weidong Yin said in a statement.

China has included four Covid-19 vaccines that have conditional domestic market approval on a list of vaccine products available for export. The four are made by Sinopharm’s Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd., Sinovac, CanSino Biologics Inc. and Sinopharm’s Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd., according to a June announcement by the Ministry of Commerce.

Among those, two manufactured by Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinovac have already been listed by WHO for emergency use.

In 2021, the four manufacturers are expected to have a total capacity of more than 5.7 billion doses, according to the companies.

China’s customs administration took a series of measures to ensure rapid clearance of Covid-19 vaccines and crack down on illegal exports, Li Kuiwen, spokesman of the General Administration of Customs, said Tuesday. The examination and approval time for health quarantine of exported vaccines has been shortened from 20 working days to two hours, and the clearance time has been cut to three hours, Li said.

In response to long transportation distances and urgent time requirements, SF Airlines, the air freight unit of Chinese logistics service giant SF Holding, launched its first vaccine flight Sunday, flying 1.25 million doses of vaccines from Beijing to Kyrgyzstan’s capital city of Bishkek.

China’s three largest state-owned airlines have conducted multiple vaccine flights. Many countries have also chartered planes to import vaccines from China, a logistics contractor working for Sinopharm told Caixin.

The International Air Transport Association estimated that providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people globally would require the equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo flights.

Meanwhile, Chinese vaccines face growing scrutiny over efficacy, particularly against the faster-spreading Delta variant. Trial data show that vaccines made by Sinopharm and Sinovac, which use an inactivated form of the coronavirus, have lower efficacy than mRNA vaccines such as those made by Moderna and Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE.

Some countries are open to mixing the Chinese vaccines with those from Pfizer and AstraZeneca to boost protection against the new variants.

Thai health authorities said Monday that health-care workers would receive a booster shot of either the AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine. More than 600 medical workers in Thailand who received two doses of the Sinovac shot tested positive for Covid-19.

Singapore said last week that people who receive Sinovac shots are excluded from the city-state’s total vaccination count due to inadequate efficacy data for the vaccine, especially against the Delta variant.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com)

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