Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm said people aged 3 to 17 years old who are currently not included in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout will soon become eligible to receive inoculation, according to Liu Jingzhen, president of the State-owned company.
Results from clinical trials involving the younger population have shown “no obvious differences” from trial data concerning those aged 18 to 59 years old, Liu said during an interview with China Central Television on Sunday.
“So we believe those aged 3 to 17 will soon be able to use the vaccines,” he said.
The emergency immunization program initiated in China since July targets people aged 18 to 59 years old who work in high-risk professions.
Age groups eligible for immunization were expanded to cover all people aged at or above 18 years old after Sinopharm gained the country’s first conditional market approval for COVID-19 vaccines in late December.
The conditional authorization was granted to an inactivated vaccine created by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, administered by Sinopharm.
The other inactivated vaccine was developed by Sinopharm’s Wuhan Institute of Biological Products in Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province. The candidate is undergoing review of the country’s top drug regulator to gain conditional market approval, Liu said.
According to the company, more than 43 million doses of these two vaccines have been injected across the world, including 34 million doses administered in China.
“The annual manufacturing capacity of Sinopharm will reach 1 billion doses this year, which is sufficient to supply the market,” he said.
In the meantime, the company is researching a recombinant protein vaccine against COVID-19, which uses a specific piece of the virus, such as the spike protein of the antigen, to elicit an immune response.
Compared with the inactivated vaccine that uses weakened virus to trigger immune response, Liu said the new type of vaccine is likely to report higher efficacy and will be easier to produce.
He said the new vaccine will soon enter human trials. “Once we succeed in developing this vaccine, the production scale will probably grow exponentially,” Liu added.