Sinopharm CNBG Covid-19 Vaccine

Sinopharm CNBG Covid-19 Vaccine is a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Chinese state-owned company, China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation (SINOPHARM), which, like Sinovac are also inactivated vaccines that work in a similar way. Sinopharm CNBG Covid-19 vaccine is broad-spectrum protection and has good cross-neutralization effect on strains from different regions of the world.


Sinopharm Group is a state-owned pharmaceutical company with two vaccine candidates among China’s five experimental treatment in international final stage trials. The vaccines are not being trialled in China because the domestic prevalence of the virus is so low. Sinopharm’s vaccine and bioscience subsidiary is the China National Biotec Group Co Ltd (CNBG). Public statements about Sinopharm vaccines do not appear to clarify which of the two candidates are being discussed.[1]

Sinopharm announced on 30 December 2020 that phase three trials of the vaccine showed that it was 79% effective - lower than that of Pfizer and Moderna. However, the United Arab Emirates, which approved a Sinopharm vaccine earlier in January 2021, said the vaccine was 86% effective, according to interim results of its phase three trial.[2]

Research & Development (R&D) Process

Sinopharm is among two Chinese pharmaceutical companies (the other is fellow frontrunner Sinovac) to have created their vaccine via the more traditional method of using an inactive virus to trigger an immune response. They are more difficult to manufacture quickly than the others, and have the potential to cause an imbalanced immune response, but have shown historic success.

The development of the vaccine can be roughly divided into five steps: the study on the virus strain and cell or the acquisition of immunogen, production technology study, quality study, animal trials and human trials. It is a rigorous scientific process and maybe seems a bit complicated for the general public.

Virus inactivation is a classic way for producing vaccines. The killed virus is still immunogenic (causing or producing immunity or an immune response). It can be identified by the immune system of a human body, induce the immune response and thus produce antibody. Sinopharm CNBG’s Covid-19 Vaccine is derived from Vero cell which goes through cultivation, inactivation and purification. The vaccine’s immunogenicity (the ability of a foreign substance, such as an antigen, to provoke an immune response in the body of a human or other animal), safety and immune protection are studied with a series of tests on animals like mouse, rat, guinea pig, rabbit, rhesus monkey.

Transportation and Storage

One of the remarkable advantages of Sinopharm CNBG Covid-19 inactivated vaccine is the convenient storage and transportation, which just needs under the environment of 2~8℃ with no special and harsh requirements so that the vaccine can be transported with ordinary cold chain. The cold chain storage and transportation conditions of the vaccine are in line with the national conditions of most countries and greatly reduce the cost of storage and transportation.[3]

Zimbabwe Receive Sinopharm Vaccine

Zimbabwe received its first batch of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm donated by the Chinese government in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. Zimbabwe received its first delivery of 200,000 doses of Sinopharm on Monday 15 February 2021 at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in the capital city Harare. The Chinese coronavirus vaccine was donated by the East Asian nation’s government while another batch of 600,000 doses purchased by Zimbabwe is expected to arrive early March 2021.

Vaccination priority will be given to frontline workers such as health professionals and immigration agents working at borders, according to the rollout plan in Zimbabwe — which was as of Sunday 14 February 2021, reported 35,104 COVID-19 cases and almost 1,398 deaths.

Many more doses beyond this first batch of 200,000 will be necessary to achieve Herd Immunity in Zimbabwe as 60% of its population, i.e. 10 million people would need to be vaccinated.[4]

First batch of donated Sinopharm Vaccine arriving in Zimbabwe

Second Batch

The second batch of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Zimbabwe in the morning of 16 March 2021.The consignment had a total of 400 000 doses, consisting of the second Chinese donation of 200 000 doses plus the first 200 000 doses of Zimbabwe’s commercial order with Sinopharm.[5]


China’s COVID-19 vaccine development process has been relatively opaque. Unlike their Western counterparts, Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac have not published Phase III trial data in peer-reviewed medical journals or released much information about their vaccines beyond press releases and headline efficacy figures, even as Beijing touts the vaccines as a source of national pride and uses them as a means of diplomacy. Sinopharm says its vaccine is 79% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections. Sinovac has not released its own efficacy data, but partners in Turkey, Indonesia, and Brazil have reported efficacy rates ranging from 50% to 91%.

In December 2020 the United Arab Emirates said clinical trials of Sinopharm’s vaccine that included 31,000 volunteers across 125 nationalities in the federation of sheikdoms found 86% efficacy. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have both reported 95% efficacy with their vaccines, while AstraZeneca’s 70% efficacy which was in full trials in December 2020 rose to 90% for the group who were given a half dose of the vaccine initially, followed by a full dose four weeks later.

But Chinese vaccine makers still have been successful in marketing their drugs. Sinovac and Sinopharm have gained approval in over a dozen countries and have begun distributing hundreds of millions of COVID-19 doses around the world. The fact that the vaccine was distributed to many countries who had their own tests and approved it removed all the doubts people may have carried at first due to lack of transparency.[6]

In October 2020, China announced it was joining COVAX, the international initiative aimed at ensuring equitable global access.


  1. Helen Davidson, [1], The Guardian, Published: 14 December, 2020, Accessed: 15 February, 2021
  2. [2], BBC, Published: 14 January, 2021, Accessed: 15 February, 2021
  3. [3], Sinopharm, Accessed: 15 February, 2021
  4. Kizzi Asala, [4], Africa News, Published: 15 February, 2021, Accessed: 15 February, 2021
  5. [5], Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Published: 16 March, 2021, Accessed: 16 March, 2021
  6. Grady McGregor, [6], Fortune, Published: 6 February, 2021, Accessed: 15 February, 2021