Chinese partner says Pfizer COVID vaccine may reach market by December

October 27, 2020, 6:09 AM UTC

The experimental COVID-19 vaccine codeveloped by the U.S.’s Pfizer, Germany’s BioNTech, and China’s Fosun Pharmaceuticals may reach market as early as this December, according to the chairman of Fosun Group.

“Once the vaccine is proved to be safe and effective [after trial results are posted in November], the vaccine will be made available in the market by December [2020] or January next year,” Guo Guangchang, chair of the parent company of Fosun Pharmaceuticals, said Tuesday at the Fortune Global Forum.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the vaccine is safe and effective enough for mass distribution. Pfizer, BioNTech, and Fosun are currently testing the candidate on tens of thousands of volunteers in Phase III trials in several countries, including the U.S., Brazil, Germany, and Argentina. In the U.S., Pfizer is expected to submit trial data on the candidate to regulators ahead of competitors like Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which both have experienced trial delays in recent weeks.

If the Phase III trials determine that the Pfizer-BioNTech-Fosun vaccine is ready for public use, Fosun will manage the supply chain and distribution of the vaccine in Greater China, which includes mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, Guo said.

The chairman characterized the vaccine candidate as a product of “global collaboration” among companies in three different countries. That trait means it will be distributed broadly to “fulfill global demand,” Guo said.

The Fosun Group is a Chinese conglomerate that operates in more than 20 countries in sectors like pharmaceuticals, fashion, and tourism. The company’s global reach—it draws roughly half of its revenue from outside China—means it is especially susceptible to the enormous slowdown in cross-border travel due to the pandemic. In that regard, Fosun’s tourism and fashion businesses have been hit especially hard, Guo said. Some of Fosun’s international holdings include the Wolverhampton Wanderers English Premier League soccer team, the French high-end fashion brand Lanvin, and the Club Med hotel chain that has properties across Europe and Asia.

But even as Fosun sustains heavy losses in regions like Europe, China has emerged as a bright spot on the company’s balance sheet.

“Life in China has returned to normal, and businesses are booming,” Guo says. “Because China’s economy is already recovering, China has become the cornerstone of the global economy.”

China is expected to be the only major economy to grow in 2020, and it recently reported 4.9% growth in its gross domestic product in the third quarter of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019.

Guo said that Fosun has seen a significant rebound in Chinese tourism revenue, because of a boom in domestic travel.

China’s recent weeklong October holiday, Chinese travelers made roughly 637 million trips in China, slightly down from 782 million trips in 2019.

Guo said that 2020 revenue at a few Fosun hotels in China has already surpassed 2019 levels. For instance, Fosun’s Atlantis Sanya hotel, located on China’s beach island destination of Hainan, has seen revenue jump 30% this year compared with last.

A full recovery for Fosun will not be possible until the pandemic is brought to an end and cross-border travel routes reopen, Guo said.

“We hope we can end the pandemic soon,” he said, referring to Fosun’s promising vaccine candidate.

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