ECONOMY

China’s CanSino Says European Vaccine Order Talks Are Underway

CanSino Biologics Inc. said it’s in talks with a number of European countries about orders for its Covid-19 vaccine, which if signed would mark the first recognition of Chinese drugmakers’ inoculations in the developed world amid concerns over their relative lack of data disclosure.

Three European Union member states have approached the Tianjin-based vaccine developer to discuss a possible purchase, according to Pierre Morgon, CanSino’s senior vice president in charge of its international business. Morgon declined to identify the three European countries.

Hungary also issued an emergency use authorization for the inoculation, paving the way for the one-shot vaccine to be rolled out there, the company said on Monday.

“We are considering extending our regulatory footprints and Europe is definitely in the cards,” Morgon said in an interview on Tuesday with Bloomberg. “Hungary is bringing an interesting twist to the whole situation because it’s a European country.”

European purchases of the CanSino shot would mark a significant breakthrough in the global rollout of Chinese Covid vaccines. While the world’s second-largest economy has produced four of the 12 vaccines now available worldwide, the shots have gone mainly to developing countries struggling to access those made by western companies like Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc. The lion’s share of those inoculations have gone to the U.S. and other wealthy nations.

Chinese drugmakers have also been criticized for a lack of data disclosure compared with Western and Russian makers. Full Phase 3 trial data for Russia’s Sputnik shot and Pfizer’s and BioNTech SE’s mRNA vaccine have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals; no Chinese maker has done so yet. Morgon said CanSino plans to, though he did not elaborate on when.

Another Chinese maker, Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd., has been the subject of concerns over a lack of data. The Singapore government is sitting on a stockpile of Sinovac doses but has not proceeded on approval because it’s requested additional data, local media reported. In Hong Kong, the government exempted Sinovac from a requirement for peer-reviewed journal publication in order to approve the shot for local use.

CanSino’s availability as a convenient one-shot vaccine could help boost the European rollout, which has faced challenges like supply limitations and fears over blood clots linked to AstraZeneca’s shot.

“We are facing an increase in demand coming from countries across all the continents,” Morgon said. “Because they have a hard time securing other vaccines and because it is now known we have a safe and effective vaccine.”

For CanSino, European inroads would grant global legitimacy to its vaccine development capabilities. While it was the first in the world to begin human testing in March 2020, the Chinese firm lost its lead after a delay in the start of late-stage studies in countries with active outbreaks. A trial testing the CanSino vaccine with a booster shot in Canada has been indefinitely postponed amid growing tension between Beijing and Ottawa.

CanSino’s single shot vaccine was 66% effective in a trial of 30,000 people across Pakistan, Russia, Argentine, Mexico and Chile, according to officials in Pakistan. It uses a virus that normally causes the common cold, which has been rendered harmless, to carry the genetic sequence of the coronavirus’ spike protein into the body to stimulate an immune response. That, according to Morgon, makes the CanSino shot “extremely comparable” to Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine, with similar technology and efficacy. The J&J vaccine has been cleared for use in countries across Europe, the U.S. and South Africa.

The CanSino vaccine has already been granted approval in China and is authorized for emergency use in Hungary, Pakistan and Mexico. The company is seeking Emergency Use Listing with the World Health Organization, which would pave the way for the shot to be distributed through the Covax facility that provides access for poor and middle-income countries.

The Chinese vaccine maker will price its shot based on income levels, or purchasing power parity, in each country, Morgon said. It will offer Covax the lowest price, while charging high-income countries about three times as much, he said.

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