• China's Fosun Pharma is partnering with BioNTech for the booster shot
  • The booster vaccine has been reviewed by Chinese drug regulators
  • Talks about the booster shot came after studies found that China-manufactured vaccines produced lower antibody levels

China may be developing a booster shot for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with the arguably less effective jabs of Sinopharm and Sinovac.

China’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (Fosun Pharma) has partnered with BioNTech to develop an mRNA booster vaccine. The shot is now in the administrative review stage following an expert panel review conducted by Chinese drug regulators, Caixin Global reported.

The booster, which is expected to have the brand name Comirnaty, may begin domestic trial production by the end of August and could be offered for free to people who have received the Sinopharm and Sinovac shots.

Health experts said the development of the booster shot could be seen as a blow to the Chinese government which has been touting the effectiveness of its vaccines.

“I think scientists in China also realized the fact of low antibody [levels] in the serum of Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines. Therefore, they may suggest the Chinese government has another shot as a booster," Shih Shin-ru, director of the Research Center for Emerging Viral Infections, told VOA Mandarin.

Talks about a booster vaccine in China come after a Hong Kong study published in The Lancet on July 15 found that the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech gave recipients 10 times more antibody levels than the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine.

Researchers said antibody levels in 63 participants who received the Pfizer shot “rose substantially after the first dose and then rose again after the second dose of vaccination.” In comparison, antibody levels for the 30 healthcare workers who received the Sinovac jab “had low antibody concentrations… after the first dose, rising to moderate concentrations after the second dose,” the study found.

In another study published on medRxiv Monday, researchers found that the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine had a weaker antibody response against the more contagious Delta variant.

According to the scientists, the antibody levels in people who were administered the Sinopharm shot showed a 1.38-fold reduction to the Delta variant compared to the original strain of COVID-19. The study also found that the shot showed a 10-fold decrease in antibody levels in people who developed the Beta variant.

A Hong Kong study suggests people who received the BioNTech coronavirus vaccine had ten times as many antibodies as those who got Sinovac
A Hong Kong study suggests people who received the BioNTech coronavirus vaccine had ten times as many antibodies as those who got Sinovac AFP / Anthony WALLACE