China has the largest vaccine manufacturing capacity in the world, but has yet to really make its mark in the global vaccine marketplace. While Chinese firms primarily make vaccines the domestic market, an entry into global health could have a significant effect, potentially driving down vaccine prices and accelerating global immunization efforts.
Up until October, however, no Chinese-made vaccine had received the WHO stamp of approval for it to be sold internationally in low-income countries. That all changed in October when China National Biotec Group (CNBG) received WHO pre-qualification for its SA 14-14-2 vaccine against Japanese encephalitis, a disease that kills an estimated 15,000 children each year and leaves thousands more with permanent brain damage. The WHO pre-qualification made the vaccine eligible, at least in principle, to sell the vaccine to governments and United Nations agencies.
And now the GAVI Alliance has stepped forward to agree to incorporate the JE vaccine into its funding portfolio. At a board meeting in November, GAVI agreed that eligible countries where JE is a risk can apply for support for the vaccine in 2014.
The even bigger leap for global health, however, is the milestone this story represents: Chinaâ€™s commitment to global health and its entry into the global vaccine marketplace. The vaccine was successfully developed through a public-private partnership model that included CNBG, PATH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hopefully this will inspire other manufacturers in China to make use of the PPP model and play an active role in global health.
You can read a brilliant interview with Jiankang Zhang of PATH at the National Bureau of Asian Research here.
Read more at PATH >
If you want to know more about vaccine development in Asia, you might be interested in attending the World Vaccine Congress Asia 2014.