Despite being the first place where a major COVID-19 outbreak was identified, China quickly got the outbreak under control and has had among the world’s best pandemic response records, recording just 4,636 deaths and less than 100,000 cases of the illness.
As COVID-19 cases in China continue to expand, the country’s medical products regulator has approved trials for a new combination treatment using both a Chinese and an American vaccine. Meanwhile, Sinovac has reported a third dose of its vaccine seems to give substantial benefits to older recipients.
China’s National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) has signed off on local trials on combining two different COVID-19 vaccines to produce an enhanced immune effect: the inactivated vaccine produced by Chinese biopharmaceutical company SinoVac and a novel new DNA-based vaccine being developed by American medical firm Inovio.
Inovio CEO J. Joseph Kim said in a Monday press release the company’s vaccine could serve as “a primary and a booster vaccine due to its tolerability, balanced cross-reactive immune responses, and strong thermostability profile that does not require cold or ultra-cold-chain transport.”
According to IEEE Spectrum, Inovio’s vaccine is delivered in a unique way: because traditional injection proved to have only limited effect, a special electroporation device delivers a small electric shock upon injection, which also uses a shorter needle. The minute shock opens channels into the recipient’s cells temporarily, allowing the vaccine to be delivered.
Wang Bin, chairperson of Advaccine Biopharmaceuticals Suzhou, Inovio’s partner institution in China, added in the release that the preclinical work suggested that combining the two “brings the advantages of two different vaccine applications to produce an even stronger and more balanced immune response.”
© REUTERS / DADO RUVIC
Vials with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels are seen in this illustration picture taken March 19, 2021
Studies in June in the UK and July in South Korea on combining AstraZeneca’s vaccine with Pfizer-BionNTech’s demonstrated that getting the first shot of AstraZeneca and the second shot of Pfizer yielded the same immune benefits as two doses of Pfizer. According to Reuters, the finding means nations hesitant to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots in some people after the second shot can continue to use the vaccine for their vaccination campaigns safely.
“The success of the adenovirus-vectored AstraZeneca vaccine and mRNA vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech combination may not be necessarily reproduced with other vaccine combinations,” Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at Britain’s University of Leicester, told the South China Morning Post, adding that scientists “need to try it and see.”
The outlet noted that trials are due to start “in autumn,” but gave no further hint about the date or the duration.
Third Shot Benefits
Meanwhile, SinoVac is also reporting that results from testing on a third dose of the same vaccine delivered six months after the second dose yielded a substantial increase in protective antibodies.
“The study provides an important scientific basis for policymakers to develop strategies and plans for the timing of a booster dose for the elderly,” the company told the Global Times, which noted that among older recipients, antibodies levels tended to decline about six months after receiving their second shot.
The World Health Organization approved the SinoVac vaccine for emergency use in June, enabling the shot to join China’s other major vaccine by Sinopharm in being exported. According to Caixin Global, by the end of June, China had exported 500 million vaccines abroad, the vast majority of them to Africa and Asia. The two continents are largely unable to purchase expensive vaccines made by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna.
Expanding Chinese Cases
On Monday, the Chinese National Health Commission reported 143 new cases of COVID-19, the most it’s reported this year as the outbreak that began in Jiangsu Province last month continues to grow. Of those cases, 31 were imported, with 8 of them being detected in Shanghai, while 94 cases were from internal spread – 41 of them in Henan, 38 in Jiangsu, 12 in Hunan and 3 in Hubei.
Sputnik reported last week on the extensive measures adopted by the Chinese government to clamp down on viral spread before it becomes an uncontrolled outbreak. They include closing and locking down several large cities, including Nanjing, Wuhan, and Zhangjiajie, as well as sharply limiting travel into and out of affected provinces. In those cities, massive testing programs are underway, as well as supply efforts to ensure residents are getting the food, medicine, and other products they need to remain locked down in their homes until all infected persons can be identified.
According to the Global Times, pandemic experts at the Collaborative Innovation Center for Western Ecological Safety of Lanzhou University expect the outbreak to be controlled – meaning zero daily new confirmed infections – by August 23.