China increasing number of people for coronavirus vaccines

File photo. A staff member tests samples of a potential COVID-19 vaccine at a production plant of SinoPharm in Beijing. Photo courtesy: Associated Press

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP):  China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing another free to students going abroad.

As reported on Associated Press (AP) the city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement on October 15. It said high-risk groups, including people who are “responsible for the basic operations of the city” will receive priority, but that residents who have emergency needs can also sign up.

The vaccine is in the final stage of clinical testing, but has not yet been approved. The city government said it is being provided under an emergency authorization. China National Biotech Group (CNBG), another Chinese vaccine company, is offering its vaccine free to students who study abroad in a strategy health experts say raises safety and ethical concerns, AP reported.

Chinese drug companies have five vaccines in final stages of testing but none is approved for public use. They are part of a global race to develop a vaccine that, if successful, offers the fledgling Chinese industry the potential for prestige and worldwide sales.

Top Chinese health officials have promised a vaccine for the general public before the end of this year. CNBG’s vaccine has already been given to medical workers and employees of Chinese companies being sent abroad under an emergency authorization for people in high-risk categories. It has given the vaccine to 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, a company executive said in September. The trials have about 40,000 people enrolled.