The Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. claims they have positive early data from the human trials of its vaccine to prevent the coronavirus.

In a press statement published on Sunday, June 14, Sinovac's vaccine, called CoronaVac, is claimed to be safe and triggers an immune response in participants. According to a Daily Mail report, the company said more than 90% of trial participants have developed antibodies after two weeks of receiving the vaccine; none of them developed any severe side effects.  

Undated Schott AG handout image of vial made with borosilicate glass
A vial made with borosilicate glass, the material which will be used in vials or syringes to hold the eventual coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, is pictured with a syringe at an undisclosed location in this undated handout image courtesy of Schott AG.

Coronavirus vaccine in development

Conducted at the Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in eastern China,  Sinovac uses randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled trials. Currently, 743 healthy participants aged 18 to 59 years old have either received two shots or a placebo.

In phase 1, there were 143 volunteers who tested the safety of the immunization which uses a dead strain of the virus. The other volunteers participated in Phase II and were under observation to see if they would develop antibodies after they received two shots in 14 days. Meanwhile, another group in the study will be given the shots on a 28-day interval to see if that is more effective. 

"Our Phase I/II study shows CoronaVac is safe and can induce immune response," said Sinovac CEO, chairman and president Weidong Yin in a statement.

Weidong also said their clinical trials show encouraging results and prove to be a "significant milestone" in the fight against the coronavirus. Weidong said the company is currently building a manufacturing facility to begin making doses when succeeding trials prove to be successful and if they get approval for the vaccine. 

People line up to get tested at the Guangan Sport Center after an unexpected spike of cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing
(Photo : REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
People line up to get tested at the Guangan Sport Center after an unexpected spike of cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China June 15, 2020.

"Like with our other vaccines, we are committed to developing CoronaVac for global use as part of our mission of supplying vaccines to eliminate human diseases," Weidong added. 

As soon as the Phase II results are available, Sinovac will soon submit them to China's National Medical Products Administration together with their Phase III trial applications in China and other countries.  Sinovac announced last week it was partnering with Instituto Butantan to start its Phase III CoronaVac trials in Brazil.

The CoronaVac and the international market

Sinovac began its COVID-19 vaccine development in January 2020 in partnership with leading Chinese academic research institutes. In April, it received approval from China's NMPA to conduct phase I/II studies in China for its inactivated vaccine.

Currently, the World Health Organization has listed over 130 trials for the COVID-19 vaccine in various stages of development in different countries worldwide. 

Scientists develop a vaccine against the coronavirus disease in Saint Petersburg
(Photo : REUTERS/Anton Vaganov)
A scientist dilutes samples during the research and development of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a laboratory of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 11, 2020.

Sinovac is one of five Chinese companies that is currently conducting human testing, which is the final step before getting a green light for public distribution. 

Aside from the CoronaVac, the company is also developing new products for the prevention of some illnesses such as a Sabin-strain inactivated polio vaccine, pneumococcal polysaccharides vaccine, and a quadrivalent influenza vaccine. 

While Sinovac primarily sells its vaccines in China, it is also seeking for future expansions in international markets as it registers its products in over 30 countries. 

As of this writing, confirmed COVID-19 cases have already reached more than 8 million with at least 436,306, according to John Hopkins Resource Center. In the U.S., there are at least 2,111,622 cases and over 118,000 deaths.

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