Chinese tycoon Guo Guangchang’s Shanghai-based Fosun Group has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech to produce the Covid-19 vaccine, which has not yet been approved in China. Beijing’s recent strong support for domestic vaccines looks bleak for the Fosun Group’s “Fubitai” Pfizer vaccine to be approved for use in China.
Last year, at the time of the outbreak, Guo Guangchang was supposed to have bet on the right thing – a partnership with Germany’s BioNTech to produce a virus vaccine with Pfizer. However, nearly a year on, Pfizer’s BNT vaccine has been slow to gain approval in China, and authorities have instead in recent weeks allowed a third booster dose of an mRNA vaccine developed by China’s Yunnan-based Walvax, which is still in clinical trials.
The third booster vaccine, recently approved by the Chinese Communist Party, was developed by the Institute of Military Medicine of the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, Suzhou Abbott Biotechnology and Walvax Biologicals. Results are expected by the end of this year at the earliest.
Bloomberg’s analysis of the CCP’s delay in approving the Pfizer vaccine is a sign of the vulnerability of Chinese corporate majors and foreign partners, and the uncertain future global drugmakers face in China, highlighted by the CCP’s political decisions.
More than 1 billion people in China have been vaccinated with Kexing or GMP vaccines, although they have been found in scientific studies to be less effective than the mRNA shots.
Analysts say it is hard to say when Pfizer and the BNT vaccine will be approved in China because Communist Party regulators have not publicly stated why they are being shut out.
Zhao Bing, a senior analyst at China Renaissance Securities, said that if the approval of vaccines and drugs becomes a political rather than an economic issue, international pharmaceutical companies will not be able to enter the relevant market, and even if the Pfizer vaccine eventually enters the mainland Chinese market, the administration will be limited due to competition from Chinese vaccines.
At present, the Pfizer vaccine can only be used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau.
“How much market share can Fosun grab?” Zhao said, “I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t look good.”
Fosun’s shares are now down more than 40% from their August peak. Guo Guangchang’s value has also shrunk to $3.5 billion from a peak of $4.6 billion last year.
Fosun Pharma said of the delayed approval that its collaboration with BNT had been supported by the relevant regulators and that the clinical trials and approval process had been conducted in accordance with Communist Party regulations.
A spokesman for BNT said the application for the vaccine’s use in mainland China is still underway.
Communist Party regulators, the State Medical Products Administration and the State Council Information Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.