(Reuters) – China approved its first COVID-19 vaccine for general public use on Thursday, a shot developed by an affiliate of state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, as it braces for greater transmission risks over the winter.
SONG DAE-SUB, PROFESSOR OF COLLEGE OF PHARMACY AT KOREA UNIVERSITY IN SEOUL, AN INTERNATIONAL EXPERT ON VIROLOGY:
“There was no paper presented, which makes it hard to accept at face value, but an efficacy of 79% sounds rather realistic, rather than an idealistic-sounding 95% effectiveness in mRNA based vaccines.”
SONG MAN-KI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL OF SCIENCE FROM THE INTERNATIONAL VACCINE INSTITUTE(IVI) BASED IN SEOUL:
“The lack of fully reviewed papers or data published by official institutions makes it difficult to comment on the efficacy of the Chinese or Russian vaccines.
“Some numbers are just hard to believe statistically. Experts try their best to collect as much data as possible, but we can’t simply evaluate a vaccine based on a drugmaker’s statement. Since other COVID-19 vaccines are also rolled out on emergency use authorisations (EUA), more data will be compiled once some countries begin vaccinations.
“And once more data is compiled on human trials and if the country of the vaccine’s origin is trustworthy, the vaccine could also have a shot. Trust is pivotal when it comes to vaccines, but the history of the country and the firm with their vaccines is also important. But trust is built up over a long period of time.
“Yet the distribution of the vaccine really depends on the situation of the country’s outbreak. Singapore and Taiwan, for instance, must have lesser demand for vaccines now since they are doing well. Once the infections peak, countries scramble to get vaccines, then the interest dies down when the cases drop.”
PAUL GRIFFIN, PROFESSOR AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES PHYSICIAN AND MICROBIOLOGIST AT THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND:
“A conditional approval like this obviously very much contingent on the on-going clinical trial results as well as the close-up observation of the people who were receiving the vaccine. I think it’s acceptable, but it’s really important for people to understand that for conditionally approved, there’s further research currently under way.
“Most countries’ regulatory systems are fairly independent, so receiving approval elsewhere doesn’t necessarily guarantee approval in each individual country. Most countries will still have their own process to be applied. But the fact that it has gotten to the stage where it has received its approval is certainly positive in that, provided the data reviewed by other countries demonstrates what we think we knew already, it’s very likely it could be approved elsewhere as well.”
DONG-YAN JIN, PROFESSOR AT THE SCHOOL OF BIOMEDICAL SCIENCES, THE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG:
“We still have not seen key details, such as the number of trial participants and infections in Phase 3 trials for the vaccine. That said, China’s approval indicates that at least regulators have access to such key information.
“China’s approval could boost the credibility of the vaccine. But if the vaccine wants to take a share in the global market, especially in developed countries, more data is necessary. If the vaccine could win approval in the United States or European Union, where the regulatory bars are higher than in China and in UAE, more people would trust it.”
GARY NG, ECONOMIST, NATIXIS, HONG KONG:
“While more vaccines with higher effective rate are positive for economic growth and sentiment, the market seems to be immune to related news. A small reaction is seen in the share price of Sinopharm but the spillover towards wider asset classes is absent with limited reaction in the yuan and Chinese equities.
“The general market focus seems to be on the fiscal stimulus in the U.S. rather than more announcements of vaccines, which is already priced in. For the market to react more strongly in 2021, large-scale rollout with positive outcome are needed to drive the momentum higher.”
NIKOLAI PETROVSKY, PROFESSOR IN THE COLLEGE OF MEDICINE AND PUBLIC HEALTH AT FLINDERS UNIVERSITY, ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA:
“I don’t think the Chinese approval or the UK emergency use approval of their respective vaccines should be taken too seriously by third party countries, who will need to perform their own independent assessments.
“There is an ongoing paucity of data on the Chinese vaccines, so despite headline results suggesting 79% effectiveness it is hard to know what this means without access to all the data. There is a lot of politics right now in the COVID-19 vaccine market with each country that has a vaccine under pressure to get them approved and made available.
“I would be very surprised to see any western country approving this Chinese vaccine without a lot more data.”
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu in Beijing, Alun John in Hong Kong and Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Sam Holmes)