Indonesia first to approve use of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine

September 30, 2022
Indonesia first to approve use of Chinese COVID-19 vaccine

Indonesian Food and Drugs Agency (BPOM) has granted approval for the use of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Chinese company, Walvax Biotechnology. Indonesia thus becomes the first country to grant emergency use approval for that vaccine, ahead of even China.

Indonesia has gone ahead with the approval despite unpublished efficacy readings for Walvax’s mRNA vaccine, which would show how well it can reduce the risk of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The vaccine has been in development for more than two years and targets the original strain of the coronavirus – Walvax is currently conducting large late-stage trials of the vaccine in several countries including Indonesia, Mexico, and China.

According to Penny Lukito, Head of BPOM, the Chinese vaccine was 83.58% effective against wild-type coronavirus strains considered common and normal, though she added that its efficacy drops to 71.17% for the highly contagious Omicron variant.

BPOM revealed the vaccine’s less stringent storage requirements suited Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, and other countries which have poor logistics in remote areas. The vaccine could also potentially be used as both a primary and a booster shot for adults.

The vaccine – now known as AWcorna – will be locally produced by an Indonesian firm, Etana Biotechnologies.

Dicky Budiman, an Indonesian epidemiologist at Australia’s Griffith University, said producing AWcorna at home via technology transfer would help the country develop sufficient expertise as it seeks to prepare for new virus variants and possible shortages of vaccines.

“It’s important and strategic,” he said.

Walvax Biotechnology co-developed the vaccine with Suzhou Abogen Biosciences and a Chinese military-backed institution. The biopharmaceutical companies are also separately working on their own mRNA candidates that target coronavirus variants, heeding global recommendation that encourages the use of so-called bivalent COVID vaccines.

NOTE: China has not approved any Western-made COVID-19 shots and its approved vaccine portfolio does not yet include vaccines that specifically target the Omicron variant.


Category: Pharmaceuticals

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