China approved its first messenger RNA vaccine for Covid-19, clearing a shot from a local drugmaker that harnesses the powerful technology months after the world’s most-populous nation abandoned pandemic curbs.
The mRNA vaccine, developed by CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd. has been approved for emergency use, according to a statement from the company Wednesday to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The step comes years after mRNA vaccines became commonplace across the rest of the world, and over three months after China became the last country to abandon strict Covid measures, resulting in a massive infection wave that experts estimate caused at least hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Low immunization rates for many high-risk people and the use of less effective shots made with traditional technology potentially made China’s wave deadlier. Not having an mRNA vaccine was long considered a major lacuna for Beijing. The regulatory blessing for CSPC’s shot plugs that gap, while reinforcing the country’s reliance solely on homegrown vaccines to immunize its 1.4 billion population.
The Chinese government hasn’t approved the mRNA shot co-developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc., despite of a slew of data and applications filed by local partner Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co. It instead depended on inactivated vaccines developed by local state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm and the private firm Sinovac Biotech Ltd. for most of the pandemic.
More Must-Reads From TIME