Construction started on the first COVID-19 vaccine production base in East China’s Zhejiang Province on Saturday in the Ningbo Free Trade Zone, and the facility is expected to be put in use in March next year.
Total investment is estimated at 2.5 billion yuan ($357 million), of which 550 million yuan will be used in the research, development and production of an effective vaccine, according to the Administrative Committee of Ningbo Free Trade Zone (NFTZ) on Monday.
“Under the premise of ensuring quality, we will accelerate the construction of the vaccine workshop and strive to put it into use next March. We will also strive to realize COVID-19 vaccine production in Ningbo in the first half of next year,” said Yan Rongjie, director of the administrative committee.
The project will be implemented in three phases, with the first phase costing 1.3 billion yuan to commercialize the production of a COVID-19 vaccine as well as a new rabies vaccine for human use, while also building a high-level biological laboratory.
As to why a COVID-19 vaccine and rabies vaccine will be made at the same plant, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, said that these are both inactivated vaccines, which have the same process and technology.
The base in Ningbo is being built by Ningbo Rongan Biological Pharmaceutical Co, one of the main suppliers of rabies vaccine for human use in China. “But it has not been mentioned as a future COVID-19 vaccine supplier in media reports,” Tao told the Global Times on Monday.
“The production of inactivated COVID-19 vaccine uses much the same technology. As long as one company’s product is proven to be effective and safe, others can license or share the technology to produce inactivated COVID-19 vaccines,” said Tao.
The base in Zhejiang will be the third COVID-19 vaccine production workshop in China.
In the future, inactivated COVID-19 vaccine facilities may be set up by other companies with large capacity for routine inactivated vaccines, Tao added.
A subsidiary of China Electronics Co opened a production workshop for COVID-19 vaccine with an annual output of 100 million doses, media reported on May 12.
Sinopharm China National Biotec Group (CNBG) completed construction of the biggest coronavirus vaccine production workshop in the world on April 15 in Beijing, with an annual capacity of 100 to 120 million doses, the group said on May 29.
Together with its Wuhan plant in Central China’s Hubei Province, completed on July 1, CNBG’s total COVID-19 vaccine capacity will surpass 200 million doses per year.
An immunology expert based in Beijing told the Global Times on Monday that it would take 12 to 18 months to confirm the safety and efficacy of the vaccine candidate in clinical trials, so wide-scale vaccination won’t start immediately.