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China’s COVID-19 vaccine production capacity may cover 40% of population by mid-2021: disease control head

Non-medical essential workers receive China's SINOVAC vaccine

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines could be sufficient for 40% of the population to have been vaccinated by mid-2021, the country’s head of disease control authorities said on Friday.

The country’s production capacity may also be large enough to allow 70%-80% of its 1.4 billion population to have been vaccinated by the beginning of 2022, Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the government’s top advisory body.

“The possibility exists,” Gao said, but cautioned that translating production capacity into actual products that meet necessary standard was “a complicated process”.

He added that the estimate was his personal view as a scientist rather than an official forecast.

More than 52 million doses were administered in China as of end-February, which equates to fewer than 4 doses per 100 people, a ratio much lower than the level seen in countries such as Israel and United States.

China, which has approved four locally developed vaccines for general public use, has not disclosed how many doses it is actually making.

Sinovac Biotech said early this week that annual production capacity of the firm’s two-dose vaccine CoronaVac could hit 2 billion doses by June.

A Wuhan-based unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) is running a facility that can churn out as many as 100 million doses of its vaccine a year, while a Beijing-based subsidiary of Sinopharm has an annual capacity of 1 billion doses of a separate product. Both Sinopharm units’ vaccines require two doses.

Sinopharm could expand COVID-19 vaccine production capacity to 3 billion doses per year, said Yu Qingming, chairman of Sinopharm Group, another unit of Sinopharm which is not directly involved in COVID-19 vaccine production, according to state media.

Yu did not disclose when the 3 billion dose capacity would be hit.

Production capacity of a single-dose vaccine from CanSino Biologics could reach an annual 500 million doses this year, a scientist leading research for the shot told state media in February.

Companies including Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products and Walvax Biotechnology, whose vaccine candidates are yet to be approved, have started work on manufacturing facilities.

(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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