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New Chinese mRNA Covid vaccine shows positive early results

New Chinese mRNA Covid vaccine shows positive early results

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A Chinese vaccine maker has announced positive early results for its messenger RNA vaccine as Covid-19 spreads rapidly in a population vaccinated with more traditional vaccines.

CanSinoBio said Friday its vaccine elicited 23 to 29 times more antibodies than an inactivated shot when given as a booster shot to people who had already received three shots.

The “phase 2b” study of more than 400 people – which usually occurs before a gold-standard phase 3 study – showed positive results against Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.5.

CanSinoBio’s mRNA vaccine program and another from competitor Sinopharm are among a handful in China that, if successful, could help the country deal with rising Covid-19 case numbers and hospitalizations. But it could be many months before such a vaccine is approved.

Low uptake of booster shots and less effective vaccines have helped the virus spread rapidly as the country abandoned its strict lockdown policies.

China has vaccinated its population primarily with Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, which use a killed virus to teach the immune system to respond to future infection rather than the genetic code contained in mRNA shots.

The two home-grown vaccines were not as effective as the western mRNA vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, particularly in combating new variants.

China did not import the Western mRNA vaccines. Moderna refused to hand over the core intellectual property behind its vaccine to Beijing, causing negotiations to collapse.

BioNTech partnered with Chinese manufacturer Fosun International in 2020 to develop and commercialize its vaccine in China, but it’s still not available to Chinese nationals. The German government has reached an agreement to allow its nationals staying in China to be vaccinated.

CanSinoBio already has a Covid-19 vaccine available in China that is recommended by the World Health Organization as a safe and effective vaccine. In November, some Chinese cities began rolling out an inhaler version, sending their Hong Kong-listed shares up as much as 70 percent.

In the study of his mRNA vaccine, more than half of the participants were over the age of 60, and the older cohort tended to tolerate the mostly mild side effects better than their younger peers.

Seven days after the vaccinations, the participants’ neutralizing antibodies – who fight a virus – were 23 times higher against the BA.5 variant than those who had received a fourth dose of the same inactivated vaccine they had previously received.

Shares of CanSinoBio rose 4 percent to HK$71.70 on Friday.

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