The Chulabhorn Royal Academy (CRA) has expressed an intent to cooperate with Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm in developing second and third-generation vaccines against COVID-19.
The potential cooperation on vaccine development has been unveiled by acting Chinese Ambassador Yang Xin, Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Thailand.
Mr Xin said China is developing second and third-generation vaccines targetting the COVID-19 variants and bilateral cooperation on vaccine development is on the cards.
He said the CRA, which procures the Sinopharm vaccine to supplement the government’s vaccination drive, has expressed an intent to join hands with the firm in vaccine development.
Cooperation can be carried out in various forms including vaccine trials, he said.
Discussing vaccine development in China, Mr Xin said five types of vaccines are under development in China including inactivated vaccine, Adenovirus-based vaccine, and mRNA vaccine.
The Chinese public prefers the type with the least undesirable effects and as a result, the inactivated type has become the country’s main vaccine because it is a tried and trusted method, he said.
Mr Xin said the mRNA type vaccine candidate is about to enter the second phase of human trials.
However, he said the Chinese mRNA vaccine differs from the ones developed in the US and Europe. This is because China is a developing country and it aims to develop the vaccine for use in other developing countries where it may be difficult to provide ultra-cold storage at minus 70-80ºC to accommodate mRNA vaccine distribution.
“The good news is that the mRNA vaccine trial of China is close to completion. It is easier to store than others [mRNA],” he said.
The acting ambassador also said the vaccines being used in China are found to be effective in preventing severe infections caused by the Delta variant which has spread in China’s Guangzhou.
“The vaccines that we use in Guangzhou can handle the Delta variant, preventing severe symptoms. But it’s true the effectiveness is reduced after a period of time,” he said.
China, he said, is overwhelmed by Thai public support after the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, and as a show of moral support to Thais during hard times, it has sent vaccines and medical supplies.
A total of 16 batches of Chinese vaccine has been delivered to Thailand, he said, adding that China has also shared vaccine supplies with other countries in need.
“Safety, efficacy and access to vaccines are what we consider when it comes to vaccines. Those who can’t manufacture the vaccines must have access,” he said.
China has realised the importance of vaccines in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic with Chinese President Xi Jinping announcing that China would treat COVID-19 vaccines developed in the country as “public goods” and would ensure accessibility and affordability in developing countries, he said.