China grants conditional approval for Pfizer’s COVID pill Paxlovid | Coronavirus Pandemic News

China’s National Medical Products Administration says more research needs to be done on the drug.

China says it has given Pfizer’s COVID-19 drug Paxlovid “conditional” approval to treat adults with mild to moderate illness and at high risk of developing serious illness.

The drug has been approved in about 40 countries so far, while the European Union has allowed member states to use it as an emergency measure against the fast-spreading Omicron variant coronavirus ahead of formal approval.

“This is an important milestone in our fight against COVID-19,” a Pfizer representative said in a statement, without providing sourcing details.

Unlike COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer says preliminary studies show Paxlovid doesn’t target the ever-evolving spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter cells, meaning it should theoretically be more variant-safe.

China’s National Medical Products Administration said Saturday that further research on the drug needs to be conducted and submitted to the regulator.

Beijing has not yet approved any foreign-made coronavirus vaccines.

Laboratory tests have shown that Omicron patients vaccinated with the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine experience a greater drop in antibody levels than patients given the Pfizer version.

Earlier this week Pfizer, whose vaccine developed with German company BioNTech was the first to be approved in the US, forecast sales of more than $50 billion in 2022 for its coronavirus vaccine and therapeutic treatment.

The company expects to complete 120 million treatment cycles of Paxlovid, with executives describing ongoing contract talks with about 100 governments.

China has yet to approve any COVID-19 vaccines developed by foreign drugmakers, but as of Feb. 7 has vaccinated 87.1 percent of its entire population with multiple domestically developed vaccines.

Flare included

Beijing’s conditional approval of the pill comes as China — where the coronavirus first emerged in late 2019 — has slowed new cases to a trickle with a strict “zero-COVID” strategy involving targeted lockdowns, travel restrictions and lengthy quarantines.

The country has kept its daily number of new COVID-19 patients with confirmed symptoms below 250 and sometimes fewer than 10 over the past year.

The number is small for its 1.4 billion people and by global standards, thanks to China’s approach to containing local flare-ups as quickly as possible and its week-long quarantine requirement for most travelers arriving from abroad.

All 40 new domestic cases in China on Saturday occurred in just two cities, according to the National Health Commission.

One of them, the southern city of Baise – a major aluminum producer – went into lockdown this week amid a spike in infections, pushing global prices for the metal to a 14-year high.

The other cases were spotted in the northeastern coastal city of Huludao, prompting authorities to suspend inter-provincial tourism in the surrounding Liaoning province, state broadcaster CCTV reported Saturday.

The country’s uncompromising handling of the pandemic has resulted in the ongoing Winter Olympics being held in what is known as a closed circuit, preventing participants from interacting with the wider population.

Organizers on Saturday announced eight new cases related to the Games, including four athletes and team officials.

More than 400 Olympic-related cases have been confirmed so far, organizers said in a statement.

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