China approves its first mRNA Covid-19 vaccine

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Hong Kong

China has approved its first Covid-19 vaccine based on mRNA technology, months after the country lifted strict pandemic measures.

The vaccine was developed by CSPC Pharmaceutical Group, a homegrown firm based in the northern Chinese city of Shijiazhuang, it said in a Wednesday statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange. The vaccine targets the Omicron variant and was tested in China with over 5,500 people, it added.

The approval comes just weeks after China declared a “major and decisive victory” in its handling of the coronavirus outbreak that swept the country in recent months following an abrupt relaxation of its “zero-Covid” policy late last year.

“This is a positive step because there is strong scientific evidence that mRNA vaccines do much better than non-MRA vaccines,” Jin Dong-yan, a professor in molecular virology at the University of Hong Kong, told CNN.

“Whether this product … is as good as other products on market is still to be determined.”

CSPC said in the statement the results had demonstrated the vaccine’s “safety, immunogenicity and efficacy,” but it didn’t offer additional details.

Until now, China has approved only inactivated vaccines made by Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm Group, two Beijing-based drugmakers.

The inactivated vaccines have been found to elicit lower levels of antibody response compared to ones using the newer messenger RNA technology. Biotech firms Pfizer

(PFE) and Moderna

(MRNA) make rRNA vaccines.