China set to begin vaccine exports

Vaccine makers in China are gearing up to make a push into exports in the next few years that could lower the costs of immunizations and provide new competition for Western pharmaceutical companies.
China's vaccine-making prowess received world-wide attention in 2009 when one of its companies developed the first effective vaccine against swine flu in just 87 days. New vaccine development had usually been won by the U.S. and Europe, the Associated Press reports.
The World Health Organization announced that China's drug safety authority met international standards for vaccine regulation in March. This opened the doors for Chinese vaccines to be submitted for WHO approval.
Despite these gains, more must be done to build confidence in Chinese vaccines overseas. The food and drug safety record of Chinese products in recent years has not inspired confidence. In 2007, Chinese cough syrup killed 93 people in Central America and a year later, contaminated blood thinner led to dozens of deaths in the United States. That same year, tainted milk powder poisoned hundreds of thousands of Chinese babies and killed six.
The government has since imposed more regulations, heavier punishments for violations and stricter inspections.
"In the U.S., we have supporting institutions such as the market economy, democracy, media monitoring, civil society, as well as a well-developed business ethics code, but these are all still pretty much absent in China," Yanzhong Huang, a China health expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, according to the Associated Press. "For China, the challenge is much greater in building a strong, robust regulative capacity."
The next few years will be crucial for China, as biotech companies upgrade facilities and improve procedures to meet quality and safety standards. The costly and challenging process will be followed by the submission of vaccines to the U.N. health agency for approval, which could take several years. Vaccines in the works include ones for Japanese encephalitis, pneumonia and rotavirus.
"I personally predict that in the next five to 10 years, China will become a very important vaccine manufacture base in the world," Wu Yonglin, the vice president of the state-owned China National Biotec Group, said, the Associated Press reports.