Beijing Seeks to Aggressively Export Its COVID-19 Vaccines at Cheap Prices

Beijing Seeks to Aggressively Export Its COVID-19 Vaccines at Cheap Prices
A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD's vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, China on Sept. 6, 2020. (NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Nicole Hao

Recent Chinese media reports revealed that Beijing was seeking to export COVID-19 vaccines at extremely low prices, while selling them at considerably higher rates—more than 22.5 times in one case—inside China.

As countries race toward developing a safe vaccine, the Chinese regime has aggressively pushed for Chinese manufacturers to export their doses to foreign countries.

One Chinese drug company said it would sell the vaccine to Brazil for around $2 per dose. But in interviews with Chinese media, the company’s CEO said it would sell the vaccine at 300 yuan (about $44) per dose in China.

The $2 per dose is lower than other global manufacturers' pricing.

On Aug. 5, Johnson & Johnson announced that it reached an agreement with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of its investigational vaccine, Ad26.COV2.S, after it gets approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The U.S. government is funding the manufacturing costs and will offer the vaccine on a “not-for-profit” basis at $10 per dose.

Another U.S. pharma giant, Moderna, said in August that smaller volume agreements for the company’s experimental vaccine will be priced in the range of $32 to $37 per dose. Larger volume deals would be priced lower.

Meanwhile, British-based AstraZeneca said its vaccine would be distributed by India’s Serum Institute in India and other developing countries for around $3 per dose.

Pfizer and BioNTech, however, announced that they would offer their 100 million doses of an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine for free, as the U.S. government has committed to paying for them.
Chinese authorities have publicly encouraged Chinese drug companies to export their developed vaccines.

U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan said Beijing seeks to dominate the global market with cheap vaccines so that it could build its image as a global savior in fighting the pandemic.

“It wants to show the world that a totalitarian ruling system is more effective,” Tang said.

The Chinese regime also wants to influence other countries into supporting its agenda. “It’s likely to get underdeveloped countries to rely on its vaccines, then these countries would support it at the United Nations and other international organizations,” Tang said.

Chinese Price

Chinese state-run Global Times reported on its English website on Oct. 2 that Brazil’s São Paulo state government ordered 46 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech at a price of $90 million.

Global Times cited a company source who said the unit price of the deal would be around $2 per dose.

São Paulo Governor Joao Doria confirmed the deal on Oct. 2. He said that he had asked Brazilian health regulator Anvisa to register SinoVac’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

However, Global Times didn’t report this deal in the Chinese language. Neither did other mainland Chinese state-run outlets.

The Hong Kong-based pro-Beijing media outlet Phoenix reported on the deal on Oct. 2, but the article was quickly removed from its website and social media accounts.

According to a web cache version of the article, the outlet cited Sinovac CEO and chairman Yin Weidong, who said the company will adopt an “international market price” to sell its vaccine in China, estimating that the cost on the domestic market should be lower than 600 yuan ($88.35) for two doses.

For potential buyers in Indonesia and Turkey, Yin said Sinovac would give them a low price, but did not cite a figure.

The report noted that the vaccine could potentially have side effects. “If the side effects aren’t serious or only a relatively small portion of inoculated people have side effects, it wouldn’t be an issue and the vaccine candidate is safe,” it said.

During Sinovac’s phase III clinical trial, some people reported side effects of a fever, arms or other places where the vaccine was injected feeling achy, and so on, the report stated.

Other Chinese pharmas that are developing COVID-19 vaccines include state-run drug company China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), which is in phase III trials.

On Sept. 10, Sinopharm announced on its official website that the price of its COVID-19 vaccine would be lower than 1,000 yuan ($147.26) for two or three doses in the domestic market.
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.