A Chinese drugmaker says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 79% effective

December 30, 2020, 8:29 AM UTC

Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm said on Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 79.34% effective at preventing people from contracting the coronavirus. The state-controlled firm said it has applied to regulators in China to allow widespread use of the vaccine.

Sinopharm’s Wednesday results are lower than the 86% effectiveness that the United Arab Emirates reported for the vaccine in early December, but much higher than the 50% threshold required for a vaccine to be deemed effective by medical consensus.

The UAE began widespread distribution of Sinopharm’s vaccine this month, and Bahrain, which also participated in Phase III Sinopharm trials, approved Sinopharm’s candidate earlier this month.

Sinopharm didn’t explain the discrepancy between the UAE efficacy figure and its own, which was based on interim analysis of Phase III clinical trial data; the firm told Reuters it would release detailed results at a later date, but didn’t specify when that would be.

The company hasn’t yet received government approval for the widespread use of its vaccine in China, but people in high-risk groups have been receiving shots of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine since July under China’s emergency use program. Sinopharm said in November that around 1 million people in China received shots of its vaccine candidate under the emergency use scheme.

Sinopharm said it will be able to produce 1 billion doses of its vaccine in 2021. Unlike the leading COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna, Sinopharm’s vaccine doesn’t require expensive cold-chain shipping networks, meaning storage and distribution of Sinopharm’s vaccine will be cheaper and more accessible to lower- and middle-income countries.

Indonesia, for example—the world’s fourth most populous country—doesn’t have the cold-chain infrastructure required to store and distribute the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but it does have the technology required to distribute Sinopharm’s vaccine.

The U.K. on Wednesday became the first country in the world to authorize the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which like Sinopharm’s vaccine, doesn’t require cold-chain storage and so is cheaper and easier to store and distribute than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.