China launches urgent use of COVID-19 vaccines for 1 month

A researcher works in lab. Photo: China National Biotech Group

One month has passed since China officially launched the urgent use of COVID-19 vaccines on July 22, while the vaccines were going through clinical trials, said a National Health Commission official on Saturday. Recipients who got their first dose since then revealed they had few adverse reactions and none reported a fever.

According to China’s Law on Vaccine Management, when a particularly severe public health emergency occurs, vaccines in clinical trials can be used in a limited scope to protect medical and epidemic prevention personnel, border officers and other people working in stable city operations, said Zheng Zhongwei, director of the Development Center for Medical Science and Technology of the National Health Commission, in an interview with China Central Television on Saturday night. Zheng now leads China’s vaccine development work.

The Global Times has previously reported that employees of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) preparing to go abroad and frontline medics have been offered two choices of domestic inactivated vaccine candidates developed by Sinopharm for urgent use.

On Thursday and Friday, Sinopharm signed cooperation agreements on phase III clinical trials of inactivated vaccines with Peru, Morocco and Argentina.

Zheng noted that for the next step of preventing a possible outbreak this autumn and winter, vaccines’ availability will be extended to people working in food markets, transport systems and services industries.

A document circulated online from a Chinese company in the tourism sector – TravelSky Technology – revealed that the company’s key researchers, inspectors in airport terminals, and other employees with frequent business overseas can get priority for free vaccinations.

The number of people being vaccinated on an urgent basis may reach hundreds of thousands across China, considering that personnel in wider sectors are being offered free injections, said Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based immunology expert, on Sunday.

“But it’s difficult to give an accurate figure since the Chinese military has begun mass vaccinations but has not released details,” Tao said.

The inactivated vaccine is very likely to be approved for marketing by the end of the year though the timeline will be mainly dependent on the progress of late-stage clinical trials overseas, vaccine producer Sinopharm said on Sunday.

Wu, an employee of a state-owned company handling overseas construction projects along the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Asian and African countries, told the Global Times on Sunday that all staff in her company have been offered inactivated vaccine injections on a voluntary basis for free.

Wu, who took the vaccine on August 7 along with many of her colleagues for free injections, said she had not had any obvious adverse reactions, similar to everyone else in her group.

“My colleagues and I felt only a little dizzy on the afternoon of the vaccination, but we got over it pretty quickly. There was no local redness, swelling or pain, and we did not hear of anyone reporting a fever,” said Wu, who will take her second dose on day 28 after the first shot.

“People seem to be relaxed over the vaccination as most of us feel confident in domestically developed vaccines,” she said..

At least 10 percent of the employees, mainly those in charge of projects overseas, have been vaccinated in groups since they were notified on July 30. The vaccination process is ongoing, Wu said.

Some employees who were overseas during the epidemic have also been vaccinated by Chinese medical teams that went abroad, Wu said.

Vaccinations are not given to those with severe allergies, those who tested positive for novel coronavirus nucleic acid or antibodies, or for pregnant women, according to the notification.

One of Sinopharm’s inactivated COVID-19 vaccines on August 13 was revealed to have had a low rate of adverse reactions for patients in phase I and II clinical trials, while also demonstrating immunogenicity results.

The inactivated vaccine will be effective against all detected strains of the virus at least as of mid-July, with lower chances and degrees of adverse reactions than same-type vaccine candidates under research, Yang Xiaoming, head of Sinopharm, told the Global Times in a previous interview.

The rarity of adverse reactions and promising results of the inactivated vaccine stem from the rich experience and mature process of inactivated vaccine technology in China and vaccine manufacturers, a Beijing-based vaccine professional who prefers to be anonymous, told the Global Times on Sunday. “But how effective it is will require phase III clinical trials and longer tests.”

Yang announced on Saturday night that more than 20,000 people in the United Arab Emirates had taken inactivated COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinopharm in phase III clinical trials, which have shown a high level of safety. The efficacy of the vaccine is under observation.

“The phase III trial in the UAE has had no reported cases of side effects so far,” Yang said. “Volunteers joined faster than expected and the vaccine was well worth the wait.”

Source: Global Times

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