Commentary: China’s own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is showing early promise

CNA

Commentary: China’s own mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is showing early promise

DUBLIN: China, the country that first detected the novel coronavirus, remains one of the few not to have imported one of the exceptionally effective mRNA COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Instead, it has so far relied on vaccines developed by two Chinese companies, Sinovac and Sinopharm. However, this may be set to change. China is now developing its own mRNA vaccine.

Both the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines use a traditional design, containing whole forms of the coronavirus that have been inactivated – a tried-and-tested way of making vaccines that work.

However, while these vaccines were initially quite good at stopping people getting symptomatic COVID-19, this protection waned significantly over time. These vaccines also offer poor protection against infection with the Omicron variant.

This has put pressure on China to develop more effective vaccines, as it is pursuing a strict containment policy with the virus.

The mRNA vaccines work in a different way. They deliver a snippet of the coronavirus’ genetic code into the body, housed inside a lipid droplet. Once this gets inside cells, the code gets read and the cells produce copies of a key part of the virus, its spike protein. The immune system then sees these spike proteins and mounts a response to them, generating immunity against the full virus should it be encountered in the future.