Chinese clinical-stage company Clover Biopharmaceuticals has announced that its protein-based Covid-19 vaccine candidate, SCB-2019, was 67% effective against coronavirus infection in a large trial. When it came to the fast-spreading and globally dominant Delta variant, the vaccine demonstrated an efficacy of 79%.

The jab also showed 100% efficacy against severe Covid-19 and hospitalisation, and 84% efficacy against moderate-to-severe Covid-19 caused by any strain, the company said.

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SCB-2019 is the first vaccine candidate, Clover said, to demonstrate significant efficacy against the Gamma, Delta and Mu variants, the three most dominant strains of Covid-19.

The global Phase II/III SPECTRA trial enrolled over 30,000 adult and elderly participants across five countries, and was funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) as part of an up to $328m investment to develop and enable equitable access to SCB-2019.

Why is this important?

While around 55% of people in rich countries are doubled-jabbed against Covid-19, less than 1% of those in low-income nations have received two vaccine doses. With major vaccine makers failing to distribute shots equitably worldwide, less wealthy countries are in desperate need of new, effective vaccines to protect themselves against the virus.

Building on its partnership with CEPI, Clover this June signed an advance purchase agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance that will make up to 414 million doses of SCB-2019 available to the COVAX facility, an initiative working for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Supply of the vaccine to COVAX participants is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of this year, pending an emergency use listing from the World Health Organization (WHO). Clover said it would submit the trial data for conditional approval to the WHO and regulators in China and Europe within the same period.

CEPI chief executive Dr Richard Hatchett said: “This very encouraging data demonstrates the favourable safety profile of Clover’s vaccine and its efficacy against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 – including the predominant Delta variant – so it will be a crucial addition to our weaponry in the fight against Covid-19.

“CEPI’s significant early investments have accelerated the clinical development and manufacturing of the vaccine and will enable equitable access to hundreds of millions of doses through COVAX.

“As a result of CEPI’s partnership with Clover, this vaccine is poised to play a significant role in protecting those most at risk from Covid-19, wherever they are in the world.”