Chinese officials have said vaccine makers have improved their Covid-19 vaccines against the omicron variant and other strains, but new vaccines will be validated for safety and efficacy before they can be rolled out.
According to Zheng Zhongwei, an official who oversees the development of the Covid vaccine at the National Health Commission, the inactivated injections widely used in the country have been modified to fight up to three variants, including omicron and the previous predominant delta strain. . Another protein subunit targeting four variants is seeking approval for human testing overseas, he said.
“We share everyone’s urgent wish to use omicron target vaccines,” Zheng said during a briefing in Beijing on Saturday. “As we accelerate the development of the omicron vaccine, we consistently make safety and efficacy our #1 priority.”
He said omicron’s ability to evade immunity induced by existing vaccines has been proven in studies to be partial, meaning receiving a full vaccination still effectively reduces the risk of hospitalization, serious illness and death caused by the variant, while booster shots can reduce the risk of breakthrough. infections.
Early laboratory studies have shown that inactivated vaccines developed by Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm elicited fewer protective antibodies against the omicron variant than mRNA vaccines from Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc, even after a booster shot. This has led some researchers to recommend that people previously inoculated with the inactivated vaccine should boost their immunity with a more potent injection.
China also allowed people to get another type of Covid booster if they received the inactivated ones. The country is also developing an mRNA vaccine and has obtained data on protection against omicron by mixing different vaccines in overseas trials, Zheng said, without providing further details.
Omicron’s lower virulence and China’s mass vaccination campaign – nearly 90% of its 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated and more than a third have received boosters – have driven 95% of infected people to show only mild symptoms or no symptoms in a nationwide outbreak that has become the worst for the country in more than two years.
China reported the deaths of two people on Saturday after contracting Covid. Both are over 60 and have underlying illnesses, one of which is unvaccinated. Officials said the two patients’ Covid infections were mild and their underlying illnesses killed them.
Chinese authorities have urged the country’s elderly population to get vaccinated. While around 80% of people over 60 have been fully vaccinated, the share drops to around half for people aged 80 or over, a group most vulnerable to the virus and at high risk of contracting diseases. serious and die without vaccine protection.
The elderly account for more than 90% of deaths in Hong Kong’s Covid outbreak, with unvaccinated people more than 30 times more likely to die than vaccinated people, according to Zheng.