Chinese drugmaker Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd announced on Tuesday that the first batch of its 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, totaling 141,119 vials, had received a permit from the authorities for release after safety and quality tests.

Produced by its subsidiary in Yuxi, Southwest China’s Yunnan province, the vaccine was nodded in December 2019 by China’s National Medical Products Administration for vaccinating children from six weeks through five years of age from pneumonia caused by 13 types of bacteria.

Walvax Biotechnology expects to release about 1 million doses of the vaccine during the first half of this year, as amounts following releases will gradually grow, Beijing News reported.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, pneumonia kills more children than any other infectious disease, claiming the lives of over 800,000 children under five every year, including over 153,000 newborns.

With a large population of children, China has huge demand for vaccines targeting pneumonia, and before the market launch of the domestic alternative, Pfizer’s Prevnar 13, which was approved in China in 2016, was the only pneumococcal 13-valent conjugate vaccine available around the world.

Pfizer’s sales for the vaccine came in at $5.8 billion in 2018, and the amounts of the vaccine released in China has grown quickly over the past few years, with 715,400 vials in 2017, 38.48 million vials in 2018 and 47.55 million vials in 2019, statistics from the company showed.

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