Sinopharm: the president of the company advises the third dose

Sinopharm is one of the laboratories that led the race to develop and supply an effective vaccine against Covid—19. In Argentina, almost 23 million doses have already been distributed, while in the rest of the world more than a billion have been applied in more than 100 countries. The first figure will increase this weekend when an additional shipment of almost three million doses arrives in Ezeiza. With inactivated virus technology and strong public investment, China National Biotec Group, the parent company of Sinopharm, was one of Beijing’s aces up its sleeve in the race to get out of the coronavirus pandemic as soon as possible.

In an exclusive email interview, its president Yang Xiaoming revealed how much money the company invested in research and development, stated that the vaccine is safe for children between 3 and 17 years old, and advised the application of a third booster dose, which would generate “A significant increase in the level of antibodies.”

—How did Sinopharm develop a Covid-19 vaccine so quickly? How much money did you invest in this research and development project?

—As a biopharmaceutical company with more than one hundred years of history and technological accumulation, after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Sinopharm quickly created several technical teams and carried out scientific and technological research on the three fronts of diagnosis, treatment and prevention against the pandemic. First of all, we select the technical routes from the practical point of view. We have comprehensively established five technical pathways, including the inactivated vaccine, the recombinant vaccine, the viral vector vaccine, the nucleic acid vaccine, and the attenuated influenza viral vector vaccine, and we have identified two companies of manufacturing to focus on inactivated vaccine research and development as a priority. Second, we insist on rigorous scientific specification and strict requirements. The R&D team works around the clock to stay in touch with regulatory authorities, thus speeding up R&D and passing stringent regulatory requirements and professional deliberations. Third, we continue to improve our technology and have made several advancements in the traditional inactivated vaccine technology platform, including strain screening technology, inactivation process, and large-scale evaluation, purification, and cultivation. Fourth, we have secured capital investment, with a cumulative investment of more than $ 1.554 billion in R&D, clinical trials, and full production.

“Are you planning to give a third dose of the vaccine as a booster?”

—Covid-19 is a totally new virus. Scientists around the world are continually searching for effective drugs and treatments. Sinopharm has designed different vaccination procedures to observe the efficacy of the vaccine in the clinical trial. According to the article published on August 10, it has been found that vaccination with booster doses could lead to a significant increase in the level of neutralizing antibodies, which can effectively improve the durability of protection of human antibodies and the ability against mutated strains of the virus. The results showed that after three doses of the inactivated vaccine in people 3 years and older, the vaccine was safe and well tolerated and induced a strong antibody response. There was a significant improvement in serological analyzes after three doses compared to two doses of the vaccine. Taking into account the mutated strains, a third dose of vaccination may better reinforce the ability against Covid-19 in the long term. Sinopharm has submitted an application to Chinese authorities for a booster program for the third dose, which is awaiting approval. It is recommended that for designated groups, such as the elderly and service industry employees, a booster dose be given between 6 months and 1 year after completing the two-dose immunization schedule.

“Is Sinopharm a safe vaccine for children?” How many children were vaccinated in China?

—Sinopharm has carried out a series of studies for the population aged 3 to 17 years. The phase I and II clinical study of 82,662 children aged 3 to 17 years in Hebei province, China, shows that the incidence of adverse reactions after vaccination was very low, mainly fever and rash with mild symptoms. No serious adverse reactions were observed. Meanwhile, the bridge study of 900 people aged 3 to 17 years in the United Arab Emirates, which is still in progress, shows that the safety of the vaccine was good after administration of two doses, and the safety and tolerability of the vaccine. Booster doses in people 3 years and older was good, with increased antibody levels. According to the Chinese government, as of September 6, the total number of doses administered to 12-17-year-olds in China is 162.28 million, all with inactivated vaccines.

—When will the Sinopharm vaccine begin to be produced in Argentina? What will the process be like: will the antigen be sent and packaged in Sinergium Biotech, or will the entire product be developed in Argentina?

—We are accelerating the licensing process and joint research with capable partners. At this time, we will fully cooperate with our partner in Argentina to start the vaccine filling and packaging project as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we will also explore other possibilities to expand international cooperation, scope of supply and localized production.

—Argentina received a US donation of 3.5 million doses of Moderna. Did you consider making donations to Argentina, beyond sales?

—We are ready to contribute to the global fight against the epidemic within our capacity. Cooperation on vaccines between China and Argentina is extensive. With strong support from Argentina, Sinopharm carried out phase III clinical trials, and emergency authorization has also been granted by the Argentine government. At the same time, we provide a continuous supply of vaccines to Argentina, and we actively promote the joint production of vaccines as well, which will provide an important guarantee to promote the health and well-being of the Argentine and regional population.

How did the geopolitical dispute between China and the United States affect the sales of doses of your vaccine? Did they lose markets due to pressure from the White House?

—The Covid-19 pandemic has no borders, it is a fight of all humanity. The only way to overcome it is to strengthen cooperation in multiple fields, including scientific research and production and supply. We will actively fulfill our solemn commitment to make the vaccine a Global Public Good and promote its fair distribution. We are ready to provide more vaccines to more countries to contribute to an early end to the pandemic.

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