CanSino Biologics Inc. has offered 20 million shots to Pakistan as it gets ready to release efficacy results "in a few days" from phase III trials that have recently been completed in the South Asian nation, according to its local partner.
The Chinese maker of the single-shot vaccine will be giving Pakistan preferential access and pricing, said Hasan Abbas Zaheer, technical adviser at AJM Pharma Pvt., the local partner. It has already applied with Pakistan's drug regulator to get approval.
"We need to keep in mind that this coronavirus vaccine is a very scarce commodity, highly in demand and you know the other countries many months ago started the advance booking, we also need to do the same, we are already late on that," said Zaheer in a phone interview. "Once Pakistan does a booking, we will be in a position to know the delivery. I am sure the delivery will be much before other manufacturers."
The company also plans to decrease the cost of procuring the vaccines by 25%, through filling the vials locally.
Concern is mounting over a growing vaccine disparity between rich and poor nations which the World Health Organization's Director-General has called a "catastrophic moral failure" . Pakistan is not among the 51 nations that have started administering shots despite being the fifth most populous country globally, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
The South Asian country has already ordered 1.2 million doses from Chinese state-backed vaccine developer Sinopharm, manufactured by unit China National Biotec Group Co., with deliveries to start Jan. 31. It has also given approval to AstraZeneca Plc's shot for private use.
Results from the phase III trials in Pakistan will likely be the earliest indication of the CanSino vaccine's protection level against COVID-19. A high efficacy level will add another weapon against the pandemic.
Chinese developers have trailed behind western frontrunners in reporting interim test results. As the country has mostly been able to control its coronavirus outbreaks, CanSino and other Chinese developers have had to search abroad for phase III testing sites. CanSino eventually started late-stage trials in Pakistan, Russia, Argentina, Mexico and Chile.
Pakistan is currently going through a second wave of infections that caused a peak in hospitalizations and deaths last month. Still, the nation has largely been spared the sweeping outbreaks of its neighbors Iran and India: total cases number 527,000 and fatalities over 11,000.
The CanSino trial in Pakistan completed the enrollment of 17,500 participants a few days ago, after the target number was increased from 10,000 participants. Only minor side effects among volunteers have been recorded so far, such as low-grade fever and body ache for one or two days, said Zaheer.
CanSino has also agreed to supply 35 million doses to Mexico while Malaysia is in talks to get 3.5 million shots.