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China has a well established drug manufacturing sector but until now has not been a leading vaccine maker, said Ben Cowling, professor of public health at Hong Kong University.

He said Chinese Covid-19 vaccine development had stuck to tried and tested methods of using inactivated virus, rather than some of the new genetic technologies used by Pfizer and Moderna. As a result, its vaccines may not work as well, but they were likely to be cheap and straightforward to manufacture.

“They really do represent possibilities in terms of vaccinating in Pakistan, other parts of the world, Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, South America.

“I think a lot of countries will be very interested in getting hold of these Chinese vaccines and Chinese vaccine manufacturers will be very interested in opening up those markets to their vaccines.”

China’s manufacturing might will be invaluable for creating the vast volumes of vaccine needed in the coming months, he said. As many as 10 billion doses could be needed in the next two years and Western manufacturers would not be able to cope, said Prof Cowling.

“So the Chinese manufacturing capacity is going to be valuable, not necessarily for Europe, but for places, like Pakistan, Africa and other parts of the world.”

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