In the face of an outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus that threatens Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, the race for a messenger RNA vaccine has become even more urgent in China. In China, the progress of domestic mRNA vaccine had been low as the nation’s pharmaceutical companies initially opted for traditional inactivated virus technology in vaccines.
In November, to test mRNA vaccine candidates in a booster trial, Chinese biotech company Suzhou Abogen Biosciences and its partner Walvax Biotechnology received a green signal from the higher authorities. These vaccines provide higher levels of protection against the new Omicron variant than the existing shots made by China. Suzhou’s vaccine contains the same technology that is used in the Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines.
China’s pandemic strategy, in which authorities impose strict lockdown measures on areas with local outbreaks, is believed to have prevented the deaths suffered by some western countries from a recent pandemic. However, it left China isolated and confined its own millions of citizens in their homes to prevent the outbreak. Director-general Jerome Kim of the International Vaccine Institute in South Korea said that the “old-fashioned [inactivated] vaccine” was used by the Chinese pharmaceutical industry as the existing one was easily available and was used by billions of people.