NEWS

Chinese medical firms running in full swing to meet market demand

date:2021-01-13

Inside a COVID-19 vaccine production line

Suppliers of pandemic preventative medicines are working in full swing to assure the stable supply for both the domestic and overseas markets, despite hurdles resulting from tightening regional lockdown measures amid a new wave of coronavirus outbreaks.

Three cities in North China's Hebei Province - Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang - have been hit hard by the outbreaks and put into lockdown, with residential communities in designated middle- and high-risk zones under stricter management, local authorities said on Tuesday.

With many unable to go to work and logistics disrupted by the lockdown in Shijiazhuang, where up to 80 percent of the pharmaceutical companies in the province are located, the fallout of the outbreak is remaining limited so far, Liu Xiaohan, honorary president of the Hebei pharmaceutical industry association, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Authorities in Shijiazhuang city have issued documents for companies on the supply chain of COVID-19 prevention items and set up 'green channels' for their vehicles," said Liu. Workers at pharmaceutical companies get priority for vaccinations as well.

Steps have been taken on the transportation of raw materials to ensure the minimum impact on the production lines of pharmaceutical makers.

To reduce the risks of any production disruption, all workers at Hebei Jinhuan Packaging Co, a domestic leading flip-off cap and aluminum cap producer based in Shijiazhuang, are staying in dormitories within the company facilities.

The company is the contracted supplier of most major vaccine makers in China including Sinopharm Group, SinoVac, CanSino Biologics, and Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical, which together make almost 100 percent of the domestic vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

Despite China's regulations, vaccine manufacturers need to apply to the National Medical Products Administration for a temporary revision of bottle cap supplier, which takes at least 200 working days, according to the Hebei pharmaceutical industry association.

All of the company's staff have been given priority for vaccinations. The absence of caps would "directly affect the production of the novel coronavirus vaccine," said Liu.

All staff are working around the clock without taking weekends off and production has not been affected by the outbreak, Liu Yuwen, president of Hebei Jinhuan Packaging Co, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Although our raw materials might come few days late due to the logistics disruptions, our stockpile is up to 100 tons - fully adequate to ensure supply for one to two months," Liu said.

Other companies such as the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) producer Shijiazhuang Yiling Pharmaceutical Co, the supplier of Chinese herbal product Lianhuaqingwen that plays a role in the prevention and control of COVID-19, have geared up to meet market demand.

A source with the management team told the Global Times on Tuesday that the company has tightened access to the factory and arranged accommodations for workers in the enclosed office area.

"We are trying our best to organize production and ensure supply. The production of anti-virus products such as Lianhuaqingwen Capsules is normal, with daily capacity rising to 4 million boxes," said the source.

Even amid the difficulties, Yiling Pharmeutical has not slowed its moves to foraying to overseas markets. The Lianhuaqingwen capsule has been approved for drug registration in Mongolia, the company said on Tuesday, which came after the capsule's successful registration and marketing as a drug in many countries including Brazil, Russia and Canada.

Between Monday midnight and 10 am on Tuesday, Hebei reported 21 new locally confirmed cases, including 16 in Shijiazhuang. Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang are under closed management, and people and vehicles are not allowed to go out unless necessary, Hebei health authorities reported.