China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to key workers since July, a government official has said.
Some medical workers, border officials and those who work at food markets have been offered vaccines in the hope of boosting immunity to high-risk groups, Zheng Zhongwei, of China‘s National Health Commission reportedly told state media.
Its “emergency” use was approved by Beijing last month and was rolled out on 22 July, she added.
There are currently 170 separate efforts to create a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – but none have yet been approved.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said yesterday it is unlikely that a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available before winter 2021.
The “emergency” vaccine being used by the Chinese government appears to be the country’s first – outside of clinical trials.
Ms Zheng told state media CCTV on Saturday: “We’ve drawn up a series of plan packages, medical consent forms, side effect monitoring plans, rescuing plans, compensation plans, to make sure the emergency use is well regulated and monitored.”
She also said the vaccine programme could be “scaled up” to prevent outbreaks in autumn and winter.
But the rest of the world has been largely sceptical about China’s vaccine claims.
Papua New Guinea border officials recently refused entry to a group of Chinese nationals because they had participated in vaccine trials, The Australian reported.
In the US, President Donald Trump is trying to fast-track the approval of the Oxford University vaccine for use before the election in November.
He is looking to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorise emergency use in October – a month before the vote, according to the Financial Times.