China granted emergency use authorization to Livzon Pharmaceutical Group Inc's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster, the company said on Friday, one of just two new products against the disease the country has cleared in more than a year.
Livzon's vaccine, based on the original coronavirus, if rolled out to the general public would widen booster options for China's 1.4 billion population, of which 90% have been vaccinated and nearly 60% have received a booster dose.
The United States has authorized updated COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that target the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, while countries, including Canada and the UK, also have ordered updated Omicron vaccine boosters for campaigns later this year.
Most people in China have been injected with the inactivated vaccines from Sinovac or Sinopharm for primary vaccination, among seven domestically developed shots the country approved for use between 2020 and 2021.
Data showed that other vaccines, ranging from foreign mRNA shots produced by Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna to domestic non-inactivated candidates, elicited higher antibody readings against the Omicron variant as a mix-and-match booster compared with using a third Sinovac or Sinopharm dose.
Livzon's protein-based vaccine, adopting a different technology from Sinovac and Sinopharm's products, was one of the two products Chinese officials said have recently been cleared for use. The other one has not been formally identified.
One Livzon booster dose lowered the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 disease by 47.8% compared with those who just received two inactivated vaccine shots, based on results from a trial with more than 10,000 participants and 110 cases, published in the medical journal Emerging Microbes & Infections.
The booster's incremental efficacy against Omicron was 47.0%, compared with the inactivated vaccine recipients, based on an analysis involving 63 cases who were infected with the variant from the trial, the peer-reviewed paper said.
Livzon is working on bivalent or multivalent vaccine candidates, which include designs targeting the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, Yang Jiaming, deputy general manager at Livzon's unit Livzon Mabpharm, told a Beijing-based health event.
Sinopharm and Sinovac are running clinical trials for their Omicron specific candidates.
China currently only allows one booster dose following primary vaccination. It has yet to approve any foreign-made doses.