“When China developed its own vaccines, they used that to show the technological progress of China. And now if you switch to a foreign-made vaccine, it’s tantamount to admitting that you’re not as good as other countries in terms of technological capabilities,” Huang said.
The Chinese government may also be keen to protect the interests of its domestic vaccine industry, according to Huang. “I’m sure they (existing vaccine makers) would be very resistant to introducing outsiders to this huge market,” he said.
While Chinese regulators held off approval for the BioNTech vaccine, domestic companies were given the green light to forge ahead with developing their own mRNA vaccines.
Last month, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology approved trials for a domestically developed mRNA vaccine as a booster shot — for adults who have been fully inoculated with inactivated vaccines. It has already conducted clinical trials in countries including Mexico and Indonesia, though the results have yet to be announced.