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China achieves major milestone in pneumonia vaccine

By Liu Zhihua | | Updated: 2020-04-20 13:17
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A lab assistant tests drugs at a pharmaceutical company in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province. [Photo/Xinhua]

China's first domestically developed 13-valent pneumonia vaccine Weuphoria has just been officially launched to the market, according to the maker Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd.

Produced by its subsidiary in Yuxi, Southwest China's Yunnan province, the vaccine received a permit from the authorities for release after safety and quality tests earlier this month. It was greenlighted for market approval in December for vaccinating children from six weeks through five years of age against pneumococcal disease caused by 13 types of bacteria.

Vaccine is one of the most important measures to prevent children from pneumococcal disease, which ranges from ear and sinus infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infection and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

In 2005, World Health Organization estimated that pneumococcal infection caused 1.6 million deaths annually, including the deaths of 0.7 million to 1 million children aged under 5-year-old, which mostly occurred in poor countries and included a disproportionate number of children under the age of 2 years.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund, pneumonia kills more children than any other infectious disease, claiming the lives of over 800,000 children under five every year, including over 153,000 newborns.

Before the approval of the domestic alternative, Pfizer's Prevnar 13, which was approved in China in 2016 for children aged from six weeks to 15 months, was the only pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate vaccine available around the world.

Walvax Biotechnology said Weuphoria provides a longer vaccination time window, which will help increase the vaccination rate among Chinese children against the disease.

It also expects to release about one million vials of the vaccine during the first half of this year, with a yearly production capacity of 30 million doses. The company did not disclose the price.

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