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Wednesday, February 03, 2021, 18:21
2 Chinese virus vaccines 'remain active against S. African variant'
By Reuters
Wednesday, February 03, 2021, 18:21 By Reuters

A medical worker prepares a dose of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Rabat, Morocco, Jan 29, 2021. (CHADI / XINHUA)

BEIJING - Two COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese companies, including Sinopharm, triggered immunity against a highly transmissible coronavirus variant first found in South Africa, but their effect appeared weaker, a small-sample lab study released on Tuesday showed.

Variants of the virus have stirred concern that they might weaken effects of vaccines and treatments developed prior to their emergence.

While the two vaccines developed by a subsidiary of Sinopharm and a unit of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products retained neutralizing activity against the South African variant, the samples' activity against the variant was weaker than against the original virus and another variant currently spreading globally, according to a small-sample lab study 

Twelve serum samples each taken from recipients of two vaccines developed by a subsidiary of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and a unit of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products retained neutralizing activity against the South African variant, their researchers said in a paper.

ALSO READ: Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine proves 79.34% effective

The paper was written by researchers from Sinopharm-affiliated Beijing Institute of Biological Products, the Institute of Microbiology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is co-developing a candidate with Zhifei unit, and two other Chinese agencies.

However, the samples' activity against the variant was weaker than against the original virus and another variant currently spreading globally, according to the paper published on website BioRxiv ahead its peer-review. 

The activity reduction “should be taken into account for its impact for the clinical efficacy of these vaccines,” they said.

The Sinopharm vaccine is approved in China for general public use and is also used in several other countries including the United Arab Emirates. The Zhifei shot is in late-stage clinical trials in China and overseas.

READ MORE: Chinese vaccines show effective protection against COVID-19

Preliminary clinical trial data on vaccines from Novavax Inc and Johnson & Johnson also showed they were significantly less effective at preventing COVID-19 in trial participants in South Africa, where the potent new variant is widespread.

CanSino to continue advancing phase-3 trials

In another development, China's CanSino Biologics has got green light to continue phase-3 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine with the support of findings of an independent data monitoring committee, according to recent media reports.

The independent committee "found the drugmaker's COVID-19 vaccine met its pre-specified primary safety and efficacy targets under an interim analysis of phase-3 trial data," Reuters cited the biopharmaceutical company to report on Monday.

"No adverse events related to the vaccine had occurred," according to report said.

The vaccine candidate, referred to as Ad5-nCoV, is developed by CanSino Biologics Inc and the Academy of Military Sciences in China.

CanSino was approved to conduct phase-3 clinical trials in some countries in Europe and Asia, Wu Yuanbin, an official with China's Ministry of Science and Technology, said in September last year.

With Xinhua inputs

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