By Maurits Elen
China’s vaccine manufacturers are gearing up to push international vaccines exports over the next few years, with the move expected to challenge traditional dominance in vaccine production by Western pharmaceutical companies.
Reports from UNICEF indicate that Western drugmakers frequently charged the United Nations-affiliated agency double the price asked by companies in India and Indonesia.
This past March, Chinese vaccines received the World Health Organization’s approval to be sold to U.N agencies and the Gavi Alliance, with China’s drug safety authority reportedly meeting international standards for vaccine regulation.
Hindered by ”Made in China” label
It may take some time, however, before some parts of the world are ready to embrace Chinese vaccines, due to previous health concerns involving Chinese products. The country still lacks consumer confidence, especially given the food, drug and other scandals that have recenty plagued the nation.
In 2007, Chinese cough syrup killed 93 people in Central America, and one year later, contaminated blood thinner led to dozens of deaths in the United States, while tainted milk powder resulted in the deaths of six babies, with hundreds of thousands of other Chinese babies also poisoned.
Helen Yang of the NASDAQ-listed Chinese biotech firm Sinovac (which developed the H1N1 swine flu vaccine) also had second thoughts about China’s entry into the market:
“We think the main obstacle is that we still harbor the name of ‘made in China’. That is an issue. More needs to be done to build confidence in Chinese vaccines overseas.”
China’s global food reputation has been scarred by past scandals and still has a long way to go to inspire any confidence from the international community in Chinese vaccines.