Dhe corona vaccine from the manufacturer Biontech was vaccinated billions of times during the pandemic, but the Mainz-based company and its cooperation partner Pfizer have not yet had a chance in one country: China. That could change with the current visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). After talks with head of state and party leader Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, the German head of government announced on Friday that progress had been made on the possibility of using Biontech in China as well. For so-called expats, i.e. foreigners living in China, there is now the possibility of using the vaccine developed in Germany. It is estimated that this is a small group of around 400,000 people, while China as a whole has a population of around 1.4 billion.
Nevertheless, Scholz saw the step as good news and part of an agreed closer cooperation in the fight against the pandemic. But the Chancellor does not want it to stay that way. At the same time, the approval process for the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine was discussed. This process has been going on for many months.
“This is where acceleration will occur”
Observers on site have so far not expected that China will give its approval, especially since its own vaccine developments in Europe are also not approved.
The news from Beijing was well received on the stock exchange. The Biontech share price rose by 4.5 percent at times. In Beijing, Scholz said he had campaigned hard for the approval process for the mRNA vaccine to be accelerated. “And this is where acceleration will occur, at least I’ve been assured,” he added. His interlocutors must have been positive about the prospect of relief on the European market in return. “Conversely, I have shown very carefully that the approval process that Chinese companies have initiated with the European Medicines Agency can then be completed quickly once the final questions have been clarified,” said Scholz. The fact that he “discussed it again in the right places could lead to that happening”.
According to Western assessments, China has not yet developed a vaccine against the virus that is as effective as Western companies. Studies have shown that two doses of the domestic vaccine Sinovac offer less protection against infections with severe courses or death than mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/Biontech or its American competitor Moderna. Beijing also has a different corona policy; it is characterized by rigid measures and lockdowns. There have been rumors for days that the People’s Republic will relax its corona course.
The business delegation accompanying Scholz in China also includes Biontech boss and co-founder Ugur Sahin. The Mainz company initially did not want to comment. Biontech had hoped for access to the Chinese market worth billions much earlier. As early as spring 2020, Sahin had agreed to cooperate with the Shanghai pharmaceutical company Fosun and, during a visit a year later, the Shanghai party leadership signaled that the Biontech vaccine would soon be produced for the whole country. However, after the Chinese vaccines were not approved in the European Union, Beijing reportedly took revenge and in return did not approve the German vaccine.