China launches world’s first HIN1 vaccine
Beijing: China has launched world’s first H1N1 vaccine, even ahead of the United States. China’s Sinovac Biotech has developed the vaccine, which is suitable for those aged between three to 60.
According to reports, nearly 100,000 students who took part in China`s National Day celebrations last week, were the first to receive it.
The Chinese health officials have reported at least 5592 cases of H1N1 in the country’s 31 inland provinces.Although, no independent organization has declared the Chinese vaccine safe, but the vaccine maker has marketed it to the world as of a "quality and standard not just to suit the Chinese but also the international level."
China recently granted approval to its first home-grown swine flu vaccine, which producer Sinovac claim is effective after only one dose, as the country braces for a feared winter outbreak.
Sinovac, already listed in the US, is likely to get a significant boost abroad after securing government approval to produce its one-dose swine flu vaccine.
The Chinese government’s approval has provided the much-needed thrust to the global fight against A(H1N1) influenza, as most experts had assumed that two doses of vaccine per person would be needed to provide adequate protection.
"The Sinovac (A)H1N1 vaccine is officially approved," the head of the State Food and Drug Administration`s drug registration department, Zhang Wei, had stated earlier.
"The completion of trials for Beijing Sinovac`s vaccine has shown this vaccine to be very safe," the regulatory agency said in a written statement announcing the decision.
Hans Troedsson, the outgoing WHO representative in China, had also said ahead of the decision that a one-dose vaccine would be "very important as it means we can vaccinate twice as many."
The approval of the Sinovac vaccine came just days after China`s health ministry warned of the growing risk of a mass outbreak as hundreds of millions of students went back to school this week with the winter flu season looming.
"With fall and winter approaching, the risk of a large-scale outbreak is increasing... and the possibility of the first death is gradually rising," the ministry said Monday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says at least 2,185 people have died worldwide after contracting swine flu, now the most prevalent strain of influenza. It has been detected in nearly every country in the world.
The UN health body has warned of a possible A(H1N1) vaccine shortage as winter -- and the regular flu season -- approaches in the northern hemisphere.
"We know that supplies will be extremely limited for some months to come," WHO chief Margaret Chan said last month.
Countries in the northern hemisphere have so far ordered more than one billion doses of swine flu vaccine, according to the WHO.
More than two dozen pharmaceutical companies around the world are racing to test, produce and ship vaccines before the global pandemic enters an expected second wave.
Five of those firms are expected to account for more than 80 percent of production: Sanofi-Pasteur in France, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Britain, Baxter in the United States, and the Swiss group Novartis.
But Sinovac announced after clinical trials in mid-August that its one-dose formula had proven effective -- a major advantage as the vaccine would be easier to administer and available to more people.
"We have not found any negative side-effects -- it is safe and reliable," Sinovac president Yin Weidong told AFP in a recent interview at the company`s Beijing headquarters.Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis said Thursday that its clinical trial of its vaccine had shown "encouraging" results and suggested that one dose could suffice.
Andrin Oswald, chief executive of Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics, added that while "two doses seem to provide better protection," one dose of Novartis`s Celtura vaccine "may be sufficient to protect adults."
The Chinese government plans to vaccinate 65 million people, or five percent of the total population of 1.3 billion, before year`s end.
Britain and France received their first batches of swine flu vaccine in late August. The United States and Australia expect to launch vaccination programmes in October.
(With Agency Inputs)
First Published: Friday, October 09, 2009, 00:00
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