Russia claimed the world’s first approved COVID-19 vaccine, but over the weekend, the Chinese government said it has been providing experimental coronavirus vaccines to high-risk populations in that country since July.
No vaccine has yet to be approved in China, but a state health official said during a televised interview over the weekend that the government sought to jump-start broad immunity by providing some vaccinations against the novel coronavirus to medical workers and those who work at food markets and in the transportation and service sector, Reuters reported. This appears to be the first use of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus outside of clinical trials in China. There are several China-based companies that have vaccine candidates in Phase III.
Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official, said the decision to provide these people with the vaccine candidates was to provide a boost in immunity in order to keep the state’s economy going. Government employees who monitor the nation’s borders were also inoculated with the experimental vaccine. Zheng Zhongwei said border employees are high-risk to the novel coronavirus and added that China has not experienced a locally transmitted case of COVID-19 over the past week, The Guardian reported.
Those groups may not be the only ones to receive the vaccine candidate ahead of any approval, Zheng Zhongwei said. As autumn approaches, which typically signals the beginning of flu season, China could expand the number of patients under that country’s emergency use powers, which were approved in June and have not been made public.
Zheng Zhongwei is in charge of the Chinese government’s coronavirus vaccine development program. In his interview, Zheng Zhongwei did not specify which vaccine candidate under development in China had been provided to those patients. It is also unknown to the public how many of those patients have been inoculated and what follow-up protocols are in place to observe their reactions. However, Zheng Zhongwei said the government has a plan in place.
“We’ve drawn up a series of plan packages, including medical consent forms, side-effect monitoring plans, rescuing plans, compensation plans, to make sure the emergency use is well regulated and monitored,” Zheng Zhongwei said, according to The Guardian.
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus began in late 2019, there have been more than 23 million people infected across the globe and more than 800,000 related deaths.
Although no vaccine candidate from China has been approved for use, much like Russia, the Chinese government is striking deals with countries to provide a vaccine when it is available.