Preventive antiviral injections introduced to mainland

By MA ZHIPING in Boao, Hainan | China Daily | Updated: 2022-07-08

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A new drug to help prevent COVID-19 infections in people who have compromised immune systems has arrived at the Boao International Medical Tourism Pilot Zone in Hainan province, the country's only dedicated area that enjoys special preferential policies to import medical devices, technologies and drugs, local authorities said.

Boao Airport Customs completed entry approval of the Evusheld injections, which have a total value of nearly 22 million yuan ($3.3 million), as special goods for the pilot zone on Monday.

Evusheld can provide lasting protection for a wide range of people with poor immunity and are not fully protected by COVID-19 vaccines, and for those who are at high risk of virus exposure.

Clinical research has shown that the protective effect of an Evusheld injection lasts for at least six months, according to biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

Developed and launched by AstraZeneca in March, the Evusheld injection combines tixagevimab and cilgavimab, and has proved to be effective in preventing and treating COVID-19 infection during phase III clinical trials, experts said.

Evusheld has been approved by the European Union for medical application among adults and adolescents who are 12 years and older and weigh at least 40 kilograms. It has also been authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, according to media reports.

"The Evusheld injections were sent to the bonded warehouse at the pilot zone for disinfection on Wednesday and will be supplied to about 1,700 people," said Wang Fang, an official with the Ruijin-Hainan Hospital Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, which applied for imports of the injections.

"About 10 people have made appointments for Evusheld injections after hearing the news about the new medical arrivals from our WeChat official account. They will fly over to the pilot zone hospital over the weekend from cities outside Hainan island, like Shanghai and Beijing, for health assessment by respiratory doctors before receiving the injections," Wang said.

She added that the hospital will decide whether to apply for more imports after observing domestic responses.

Situated on the eastern coast of Hainan, the Boao Lecheng pilot zone is a demonstration project for the nation's healthcare reform. It enjoys a set of preferential policies, such as special permission for importing medical technology, medical equipment and medicine, under which foreign companies are able to set up medical organizations and foreign medications can enjoy a special import tariff.

To date, the pilot zone has introduced over 200 innovative drugs and medical devices from overseas, providing timely help to Chinese patients, according to the pilot zone's administration.

Officials with the provincial government said that Hainan is making solid efforts to integrate medical consumption with tourism, with the healthcare sector designated a priority industry in the Hainan Free Trade Port. China has released a master plan to turn all of Hainan Island into a globally influential high-level free trade port by the middle of this century.