Nearly a million people in China have taken an emergency Covid-19 vaccine that is still in its testing phase, the company that developed the vaccine said.
Chinese authorities launched the vaccine, developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), for select groups of people in July, including Chinese government officials, students and workers traveling abroad, before the vaccines were shown to work. .
Sinopharm’s claims, made in an interview with President Liu Jingzhen posted on WeChat, did not specify which of their vaccines had been administered, but said that people had traveled to more than 150 countries around the world and “there has been no only case infection after inoculation ”.
“Only individual patients have had some mild symptoms,” he said.
Sinopharm’s two candidate vaccines are among the five Chinese candidates undergoing international clinical trials because the national prevalence of the disease is very low. At least three, all inactivated Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, have been approved for emergency use outside of clinical trials, and some local governments have reportedly allowed residents to take the Sinovac vaccine.
In September, the United Arab Emirates was the first country outside of China to approve the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine.
The overseas trials have caused some controversy, in part due to a lack of communication from the Chinese authorities. In August, 48 Chinese construction workers were barred from entering Papua New Guinea for fear that they had been administered an unnamed experimental vaccine.
More generally, however, the decision by countries like China and Russia to go ahead with vaccination programs before completing full trials, including large-scale Phase 3 trials, has been viewed with concern elsewhere.
Experts have warned that taking shortcuts to internationally accepted approaches to testing and regulation could lead to broader public mistrust of coronavirus vaccines and potentially reduce the acceptance required for effective protection of populations.
China has promised to supply vaccines to several countries, fulfilling potentially conflicting promises to prioritize places like the Philippines and nations in Africa. Addressing the Apec conference on Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping promised closer international coordination on policies for the development and distribution of a vaccine.
Roughly a dozen vaccine candidates around the world are in the final stages of testing, and as mass vaccine production approaches, governments have begun to prioritize recipients.
Pfizer / BioNTech has already released interim data last week and final data this week showing that its vaccine protects nearly 95% of people from getting sick. The American company Moderna has shown similar results in provisional data.
Alex Azar, the US health secretary, said this week that Pfizer will seek an emergency use authorization on Friday for its vaccine. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said that both Pfizer and Moderna had demonstrated “extraordinarily impressive” efficacy, and that the US government “will deliver high priority doses of vaccines to people in late December.”
Meanwhile, UK vaccine group Oxford has suppressed expectations that the UK-ordered 100 million doses will be ready by Christmas, saying it doesn’t compete with the other companies.
The UK’s order for 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine may come earlier, but its 5 million doses of Moderna are likely not to arrive until early next year.
Additional reporting by Lillian Yang
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