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CORRECTED-China Sinopharm chief rules out high price for coronavirus vaccine

(correct capacity figures in last paragraph)

BEIJING, Aug 18 (Reuters) - A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) could cost no more than 1,000 yuan ($144.27) for two shots, state media on Tuesday quoted chairman Liu Jingzhen as saying.

Sinopharm has said its experimental vaccine could be ready for public use by the end of this year. It has entered a late-stage human test in the United Arab Emirates to gather proof of efficacy for final regulatory approvals.

“It will not be priced very high. It is expected to cost a few hundred yuan for a shot, and for two shots it should be less than 1,000 yuan,” Liu told the Guangming Daily newspaper.

Governments and drugmakers around the world are in a frenetic race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 200 candidates are in development, including more than 20 in human clinical trials.

Moderna Inc said earlier this month that smaller volumes of its experimental vaccine have been priced at $32-$37 per dose.

Last month, the U.S. government struck a deal for an experimental vaccine being developed by Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE that secures enough to innoculate 50 million Americans for about $40 a person.

Sinopharm’s Liu did not mention whether China’s state-backed nationwide insurance program would cover some of the vaccine costs for consumers, or whether it could be included in the country’s free vaccination scheme.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a Sinopharm unit, has moved two vaccine strains using the same method into human trials. Its plants in Wuhan and Beijing combined could make over 200 million doses of the drug annually. ($1 = 6.9316 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Brenda Goh; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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