Chinese Firms Say Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Ready by End of Year, '99 Percent' Effective

Two Chinese firms working directly under state supervision say they will be ready to mass produce a coronavirus vaccine by as early as December 2020, pushing the pace of the more than 100 labs working worldwide to develop a safe COVID-19 treatment.

China's Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and the Beijing Institute of Biological Products announced they are entering Phase II of clinical trials, in which 2,000 volunteers received vaccinations last week. A May 29 post on the Chinese social media platform WeChat highlighted the country's researchers having five coronavirus vaccines currently in human testing trials.

As Reuters reported Saturday, the Chinese labs are working under the direction of the Communist Party of China's State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC).

Formed in 2003 during a massive merging of Chinese industries, SASAC reports directly to China's state council and reports having $26 trillion in assets and an annual revenue of $3.6 trillion. The Wuhan Institute and Beijing Biological Products received approval from the Chinese government to move to Phase II clinical trials in mid-April.

Newsweek reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington Sunday morning for additional details about coronavirus vaccine development updates.

Officials at the Beijing Institute of Biological Products said they are preparing their production line to manufacture 100 million to 120 million doses, according to the firm's post. Both Chinese research centers said the vaccine could potentially not be ready for distribution until early 2021. Sinopharm Group Chairman Liu Jingzhen told Chinese state media outlets on Friday that 180 volunteers had reached antibody levels resistant to the coronavirus with a 100 percent protective rate.

Western scientists cast doubt on China's coronavirus vaccine claims over the weekend, with Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College telling MSNBC Sunday morning that any vaccine developed before the middle of next year would be setting an all-time "speed record." But last week the U.S. director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, said a vaccine could be ready as early as November. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fast-tracked vaccine trials to speed up the process.

Researchers at the Beijing-based biotech company Sinovac told Sky News Saturday they are in preliminary talks to hold final Stage 3 trials in the United Kingdom. "Yes, yes, it must be successful...99 percent [sure]," Sinoac researcher Luo Baishan told the British news outlet.

The Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) held a Thursday virtual conference that discussed the "daunting" challenges the industry faces in producing a safe vaccine on a global scale. IFPMA Director Thomas Cueni said there are currently 10 vaccines in development worldwide and the ultimate intention is to produce it for any and all countries.

"We have a deep sense of responsibility in that we need to ensure no-one is left behind," Cueni said Thursday. "The notion of an equitable and affordable vaccine is a truly important one."

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