Intended for healthcare professionals


What do we know about China’s covid-19 vaccines?

BMJ 2021; 373 doi: (Published 09 April 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;373:n912

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  1. Chris Baraniuk
  1. Belfast, UK
  1. chrisbaraniuk{at}

The country where covid-19 first emerged is championing a string of vaccines, both domestically and abroad. But opacity surrounding data makes for a fractured picture, reports Chris Baraniuk

What vaccines has China developed?

There are about a dozen Chinese vaccine candidates for covid-19, but five front runners have received emergency use approval in China as well as several other countries.

Sinopharm, a state owned enterprise, is currently working on two different jabs, both of which are based on an inactivated form of SARS-CoV-2. The first was developed at Sinopharm’s Beijing institute while the second was developed in Wuhan. A third vaccine called CoronaVac was developed by the Beijing based pharmaceutical firm Sinovac. It is also based on an inactivated form of SARS-CoV-2.

All three of these require two doses but the fourth front runner, from vaccine developer CanSinoBIO, is single dose. Unlike the others, it uses a human adenovirus, Ad5, to deliver SARS-CoV-2 proteins into the body. (Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine also uses a form of Ad5 as well as another adenovirus.) CanSinoBIO previously used the same approach to develop an Ebola vaccine that was approved for emergency use in China.

A fifth vaccine candidate,1 from pharmaceutical firm Anhui Zhifei Longcom, was given emergency use approval on 16 March. This one requires three doses and uses proteins based on the receptor binding domain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

All five of these vaccines can be kept at normal fridge temperatures, a big advantage over others that require storage at extremely cold temperatures.

What clinical trial data are there?

Randomised, double blinded phase I and II trial results for CoronaVac in two age groups—18-59 and 60 …

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