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COVID-19 vaccine could be available by October after “world first” facility in Beijing granted production approval

Illustrative vial of coronavirus vaccine

China could make available the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine as early as October after the state-run China National Biotec Group (CNBG) announced that a vaccine production facility passed national examination.

According to a report in The Global Times, the facility, located in Beijing, was granted a production certificate following a recent thorough biosecurity examination, meaning it has now been approved to start large scale production once a COVID-19 vaccine is ready. It is described as the “first and largest of its kind” in the world and has the ability to produce 220 million doses of vaccine annually.

Experts now believe the first doses could be produced and made available as early as October give that a number of domestically made candidate vaccines have already entered Phase III trials.

Among them is a vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm, which is currently testing its candidate on 15,000 volunteers in the United Arab Emirates and preparing to launch a similar trial in Brazil.

Germany’s BioNTech, working in partnership with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical, announced last week that it is has dosed 72 trial participants with a vaccine using mRNA technology – a method which prompts the human body to create its own infection-fighting medicine.

As reported extensively last week, a team working out of the Faculty of Medicine at Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST), in collaboration with scientists from mainland China and Hong Kong, have made their own potentially game changing breakthrough, announcing that a vaccine developed using certain residues found in the Spike protein receptor-binding domain (S-RBD) – which is what the COVID-19 virus uses to engage with the cells of the host and cause infection – induced a “potent functional antibody response” in immunized mice, rabbits and monkeys.

These antibodies effectively blocked S-RBD from binding with the host cell receptor as it does in cases of infection, therefore neutralizing the virus during laboratory studies.

Any vaccine produced out of the newly approved Beijing facility would first be used locally, primarily on medical staff and those working at border checkpoints, however the timeline is notable given that most candidate vaccines have targeted early 2021 for release.

“It is possible that China could have a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of October as some domestically made COVID-19 vaccines have entered phase three clinical trials and need about a month to observe their effects on samples,” Shanghai-based vaccine researcher Tao Lina told The Global Times.

There are reportedly 13 Chinese companies currently working on the development of COVID-19 vaccines of which nine have been approved for clinical trials.

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