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Details 11:05 04 Jan 2021

Chinese vaccine in Ukraine: everything we know

When it's delivered, how many doses we'll have and who'll get it

Today, over 84.6 million people on the planet have been infected with the coronavirus. The number of infected people is growing every day, and the fastest possible vaccination is becoming more important than ever.

Earlier we wrote about vaccines that are already available. To recap, two of them are made in Russia, i.e. Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona. There is also a multinational one, BNT162b2, and three Chinese ones. One of them has no name, the other one is BBIBR-CorV, and the third is the CoronaVac vaccine, produced by Sinovac Biotech. By the end of 2021, Ukraine will be provided with 8 million free vaccines from the COVAX Fund, and the government has allocated another 2.6 billion hryvnias to the budget to purchase other vaccines. On December 30, it became known that Ukraine had signed a contract for the supply of 1.9 million doses of CoronaVac vaccines from the Chinese company, Sinovac Biotech. The website of the Office of the President reported.

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When will the Chinese vaccine get to Ukraine, and how much will it cost?

Under the agreement terms, the first batch of the vaccine in the amount of 700,000 doses will be delivered to Ukraine within 30 days after official registration in China or a centralized body of the European Union or one of the competent authorities of the United States, Great Britain, Swiss Confederation, Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel, India, Mexico, and Brazil. Most likely, it'll happen in Brazil, where the third phase of testing should end on January 7. That is, if we consider the ideal scenario, the vaccine should be delivered to Ukraine in mid-February. The government spent UAH 964.3 million on the purchase, i.e. UAH 504 per dose. Although the average price of the vaccine in the European and American markets is 15-17 euros per dose. However, the report also says that CoronaVac vaccination will be free, and it primarily begins with groups at risk, and people performing crucial functions in the fight against the pandemic.

According to the Office of the President of Ukraine, Ukraine has conducted negotiations on the purchase of the drugs since September 2020. The duration is due to high competition among buyers.

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What do we know about the CoronaVac vaccine?

Sinovac Biotech (CoronaVac) is an inactivated vaccine, produced in a syringe and stored at a temperature of +2 to +8 degrees Celsius. This is an indisputable plus of CoronaVac, as other existing analogs require storage at extremely low temperatures, i.e. -80 °C. Ukraine can't provide such conditions, because we don't have enough refrigerators capable of keeping such temperatures.

The CoronaVac vaccine is a two-stage vaccine. It means that each patient should receive two injections with a difference of 2 weeks. That is, 1.9 million doses imported to Ukraine will be enough for 950 thousand Ukrainians.

Clinical trials in different countries, according to the results of intermediate data, showed the drug's effectiveness up to 97%. So, Phase III clinical trials were conducted in Indonesia (1,600 patients, efficacy 97%) and Turkey (1,325 patients, efficacy 91%). Ukraine's contract stipulates that the vaccine effectiveness must be at least 70%.

In mid-December, the media reported that despite the vaccine's high efficacy in Indonesia and Turkey, Brazil reportedly stated a figure that was almost twice as low at 50%. Whether it was a "lost in translation" situation or deliberate misinformation, we can't say, but according to Reuters, officials at the Instituto Butantan of São Paulo State Secretariat of Health, where the vaccine was tested, refused to indicate how effective the study, conducted on 13,000 volunteers, was, alluding to contractual obligations with Sinovac. However, they reported the vaccine was effective enough against the new coronavirus to be approved for emergency use in Brazil. The regulating health agency Anvisa has determined that the effectiveness of vaccines during a pandemic should be at least 50%.

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São Paulo officials with CoronaVac vaccine

As for the company's production capacity, Sinovac Biotech is ready to produce up to 300 million vaccines a year at a newly-built plant with an area of 20 thousand square meters. Since the vaccine is a two-stage vaccine, it'll be enough to vaccinate only 150 million people a year, i.e. just over a tenth of China's population.

Politics and vaccine

As it turned out, the world isn't ready to abandon political interests immediately and act in people's interests. The world vaccine race is turning into a diplomatic competition, as proved by the statements of politicians. For instance, our president has previously stated, when it came to COVAX vaccines, "You need to be a diplomatic acrobat to get the vaccine."

Some Western politicians and the media have reported that China is allegedly using its coronavirus vaccine as a tool to influence geopolitics and that China has allegedly "stolen" Western technology to develop the vaccine. Commenting on the news of the Chinese vaccine delivery to Indonesia, the British newspaper Financial Times allegedly hinted that there was a political risk of using the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine.

The demonization of Chinese vaccines, the fluctuations of their suitability, the information war soon await us.

Earlier, Zelenskyi stated about unfair interstate competition for the COVID-19 vaccine.

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