Sinopharm testing Omicron vaccine

Sinopharm testing Omicron vaccine

Clinical trials approved in Hong Kong for jabs that could serve as boosters

(Reuters File Photo)
(Reuters File Photo)

BEIJING: The Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm says a subsidiary has received approval for clinical trials of a new vaccine specifically to target the Omicron coronavirus variant.

Two vaccine candidates developed by units of China National Biotec Group (CNBG) have been approved for clinical trials as boosters in Hong Kong, the Sinopharm subsidiary said on Saturday.

Scientists worldwide are racing to study upgraded injections against Omicron, as data indicated that antibodies elicited by vaccines based on older strains show weaker activity to neutralise the highly transmissible variant.

The two candidates, both containing inactivated or “killed” Omicron virus and similar to the two Sinopharm vaccines in use in China and other countries including Thailand, will be tested in adults who have already received two or three vaccine doses, CNBG said in a statement.

It did not specify which vaccine products the trial participants would have received before taking the experimental booster, or how many subjects would be recruited.

A Chinese study showed that a fourth dose of BBIBP-CorV, an existing Sinopharm vaccine, did not significantly lift antibody levels against Omicron when administered six months after a third booster dose to a regular two-dose regimen.

While the fourth dose did restore antibody levels to around the peak levels that followed the third dose, researchers said new vaccines would offer a better alternative as future boosters.

Sinopharm said in a recent release that its second-generation recombinant protein Covid-19 vaccines have received approval from Beijing for clinical trials. The improved version has already been accepted by the United Arab Emirates as a booster shot and enhances the immune response to the coronavirus, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.

China is currently grappling with its worst Covid outbreak since the early days of the pandemic. The number of infections in the world’s second-largest economy hit 24,680 on Friday, and financial hub Shanghai reported more than 23,500 new cases in the past 24 hours. 

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