KUALA LUMPUR: Sinovac Biotech Ltd, the developer of the CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine, has defended the efficacy of its two-dose vaccine, including against the Delta variant.
It said that although no data is available on its protective effect yet, studies have proven the vaccine’s efficacy in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Chile and Turkey, where the vaccine has been widely used.
“It was more than 90% effective against severe infection and hospitalisation. We also noticed that the infection rate after vaccination has been very low in these countries, and the symptoms too are very mild, in most circumstances,” company spokesman Liu Peicheng said.
“Although there is a reduction in its neutralising effect, Sinovac’s current vaccine (CoronaVac) remains effective against the Delta variant,” added Liu, who is based at the company’s headquarters in Beijing, in a written reply to questions posed by Bernama.
Sinovac’s CoronaVac is an inactivated vaccine and one of the most widely used Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. However, of late, there have been concerns over its efficacy, especially against the more contagious variants like Delta.
On July 16, the government said it would phase out the use of Sinovac’s vaccine in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). However, 14 million doses of the vaccine will still be made available to interested states and private companies from this month until September.
On the need for booster shots, Liu said although Sinovac’s research has shown a significant increase in antibody levels after a third dose, the company is still studying the necessity for it and the procedures involved.
“Sinovac is actively conducting clinical research using new variant-specific vaccines as a third shot to boost immunity,” he said.
“The new vaccines will provide higher protection specifically against the Gamma variant and the highly contagious Delta variant.
“Upon completion of the research, we will consider whether there is a need to submit a third dose recommendation to the World Health Organization (WHO), based on the findings.”
Drugmaker Pfizer and partner BioNTech had recently announced that they are seeking US and European regulators’ approval to offer a booster shot, claiming that evidence indicates even fully vaccinated people are at greater risk of infection as the vaccine’s effectiveness dips after six months.
Sinovac, the leading vaccine developer and manufacturer in China, has so far exported more than 150 million doses to countries in Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore.
In Malaysia, the Chinese company had entered into partnership with Pharmaniaga Bhd to supply in bulk 14 million doses to its subsidiary, Pharmaniaga LifeScience Sdn Bhd (PLS), to conduct fill-and-finish production at its plant here.
The first batch of the vaccine, delivered on Feb 27, was successfully rolled out on March 18 under PICK.
The company has successfully supplied all the 12 million doses to the government this month, earlier than the original schedule.
To date, Liu said, Sinovac has delivered a total of 16 million doses of ready-to-fill bulk and finished vaccines to Malaysia in the first half of 2021.
The company will deliver another three million doses of finished vaccine and 4.44 million doses of ready-to-fill bulk by this month.
“The cooperation between Sinovac and Pharmaniaga has been going smoothly. With the support of Sinovac, Pharmaniaga has boosted its vaccine fill-and-finish and testing capabilities, and the vaccines produced have been approved for use by the Malaysian National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).
“In the second half of 2021, Sinovac will continue to maintain close communications with Malaysia and do everything it can to fulfil the needs of Malaysia’s vaccination programme,” he said.
Liu said the company, with its annual production capacity of up to two billion doses, is able to support the vaccination programmes of many countries.