Chinese researchers working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine are “99%” certain that it will be effective, according to Sky News.
The news organisation, which claims that it is “the first British broadcaster” to visit the labs where the vaccine is being developed, reports that Beijing-based Sinovac is currently undergoing “stage 2 trials” with “more than 1,000 volunteers participating.”
When asked whether he thought the vaccine will end up being successful, Luo Baishan, a Sinovac researcher, reportedly replied, “yes, yes. It must be successful… 99% [sure].”
Sinovac shot into the spotlight last month when it published research results in the academic journal Science, which demonstrated that the vaccine, currently called CoronaVac, protected monkeys from infection by COVID-19.
“Researchers from Sinovac Biotech, a privately held Beijing-based company, gave two different doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to a total of eight rhesus macaques. Three weeks later, the group introduced SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, into the monkeys’ lungs through tubes down their tracheas, and none developed a full-blown infection,” reads an overview of Sinovac’s research.
“The monkeys given the highest dose of vaccine had the best response: Seven days after the animals received the virus, researchers could not detect it in the pharynx or lungs of any of them. Some of the lower dosed animals had a “viral blip” but also appeared to have controlled the infection,” the authors add.
However, Sinovac still needs to test the vaccine in human trials.
Sky News reports that due to the “low number of COVID-19 cases in China,” the biotech company is having to turn elsewhere for the stage 3 human trials.
Helen Yang, senior director of investor relations at Sinovac, is quoted as saying that, “we are speaking to several European countries and I think did discuss with the UK as well.”
"Currently it's a very preliminary stage for the discussion."
Despite the chorus of optimism, the vaccine, even if it proves successful, still has a distance to go before it is released to the global masses.
Reportedly, the stage 2 trials still have many months of testing yet before the phase 3 human trials are initiated. Moreover, the vaccine will require the stamp of regulatory approval from governments before it can be distributed.
Asked whether she was sure of success, Ms Yang told Sky News: “it's very hard to say, very difficult to say at the moment. There are uncertainties, but the data: so far, so good.”
China is not the only country working on a vaccine.
For example, the UK’s Oxford University - which previously said it was "80% confident" it would have a vaccine ready by September 2020 - has teamed up with pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, to develop a one. However, the UK has said that while it would ensure global supply, distributing the vaccine among Brits would be the first priority.
In contrast, Ms. Yang told Sky News, “we are already considering not only China but also the whole world, not only for conducting a trial but also how to supply a solution for countries including China and outside China."