China Approves First Covid Vaccine for Use in General Population

China’s drug regulator approved the country’s first coronavirus vaccine for general public use, a sign of confidence in the experimental shots that the nation plans to roll out within and beyond its borders.

China’s National Medical Products Administration gave its approval to a Covid-19 vaccine developed by state-ownedChina National Biotec Group Co., or CNBG, officials told reporters in Beijing Thursday.

With the approval, the vaccine — which has been authorized for emergency use in China since mid-year along with other frontrunner shots — will be made commercially available, meaning it can be administered to the general population. Regulators from the U.S. to Singapore have approved shots over the past month, among them vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc, but those have been largely for emergency use, a status China granted to its developers months ago.

The go-ahead for broader use underscores China’s determination to be a major player in supplying inoculations to its own people and countries around the world. Yet the nation faces challenges in winning over the trust of million of people who may have to rely on its vaccines.

Chinese developers have been slow compared with their western peers in releasing clinical trial data, raising questions over transparency, efficacy and safety as the world puts a laser focus on which vaccines will be most successful in fighting the pandemic. The lack of transparency has been evident in the conflicting interim data released by some of the companies.

A unit of pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, CNBG said on Wednesday its shot is effective in preventing Covid-19 in 79.3% of people, less than the 86% reported earlier from its trials in the United Arab Emirates.

— With assistance by John Liu, and Claire Che

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