China Claims COVID Vaccine Is 90 Percent Effective, a Week after Pfizer Announcement

Chinese state-run media are reporting that a coronavirus vaccine being developed in the country has a similar efficacy rate to the one announced by American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer last week.

China's Global Times and China Central Television (CCTV) posted tweets on Monday citing one the country's top COVID-19 experts, Zhong Nanshan, who said that the Chinese vaccine in question was about 90 percent effective at preventing infection with the novel coronavirus.

But the efficacy rate will not be publicly released "until the results of the first phase of trials are available," the tweets said.

The news from China comes just days after Pfizer announced that the vaccine it is developing with German biotechnology firm BioNTech SE "is more than 90 percent effective" at preventing COVID-19, according to an analysis of early data from a large Phase III trial.

And just two days later, the Russian Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow announced that its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine had a 92 percent efficacy rate.

It is important to note that data from the aforementioned Chinese vaccine trial has yet to be publicly released and peer-reviewed by scientists, neither has the data from the latest stages of the Pfizer and Sputnik trials.

The announcement from Pfizer came after an evaluation of 94 COVID-19 cases in a Phase III trial involving more than 43,000 people.

"Today is a great day for science and humanity," Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla said in a press release announcing the news last Monday. "We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen."

The news was largely welcomed by the scientific community, but some researchers have urged caution, saying we won't know how truly effective the vaccine is until more data is released.

The Russian minister of health said the Sputnik V vaccine "is an efficient solution to stop the spread of coronavirus infection."

But some experts pointed out that the interim analysis of data from a large-scale trial, on which the announcement of more than 90 percent efficacy was based, only looked at 20 COVID-19 cases.

The latest news regarding the Chinese vaccine comes as a regulator in China approved a clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine, the South China Morning Post reported.

The BioNTech SE vaccine is being developed in partnership with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Group) Co. for the Chinese market, while Pfizer is responsible for the global market. Data from the Chinese trial will contribute to Pfizer's larger Phase III trial.

China is developing several coronavirus vaccines, of which five are currently undergoing large-scale, global trials.

China has successfully controlled the coronavirus outbreak, with the country recording just eight new COVID-19 infections on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the United States currently has a seven-day average of more than 144,000 daily cases and more than 1,100 daily deaths, according to Reuters.

coronavirus vaccine
Stock image of a coronavirus vaccine. Chinese state media has reported that a COVID-19 vaccine being developed in the country is around 90 percent effective. iStock