China has teamed up in more than a dozen countries to conduct final-stage trials of its experimental COVID-19 vaccines as it seeks to stay ahead in the international race to immunize the world‘s population as part of its goodwill charm offensive.
Worldwide, experimental vaccines from China’s three have been injected into thousands of people in many countries including Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Russia Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post covered corporate manufacturers, government statements and media reports on Tuesday.
For at least some of these countries, approval of the final stages of clinical trials has been seen as a means of ensuring early access to vaccines, as a number of wealthy nations have already purchased doses pending approval and a mechanism from the World Health Organization (WHO).
In recent weeks, officials from Mexico, Bangladesh and Pakistan have been quoted in the media as reporting the studies as a means of gaining future access to approved vaccines.
On September 25, a Chinese health official said the WHO had supported China’s emergency use of experimental vaccines, even though clinical trials were still ongoing.
Zheng Zhongwei, director of medical science development at the National Health Commission, told the media that WHO blessed China in late June for emergency vaccine use.
Zheng said the commission proposed the emergency use of the vaccines in mid-June to protect people in high-risk occupations such as frontline health workers, border guards and foreign workers. The vaccines had yet to complete the third phase of clinical trials, but the State Council approved the proposal on June 24th.
“After approval, we had a communication meeting with the relevant representatives of the WHO office in China on June 29 and received understanding and support from the WHO,” the Post quoted Zheng as saying.
He said the approval was strictly in accordance with China’s vaccine and drug laws and used WHO standards as a guide, adding that there were no serious adverse events from the injections.
The WHO has been heavily criticized, particularly by US President Donald Trump, who accused it of being a puppet of China for not acting in time to stop the spread of COVID-19 when it did in China last December Wuhan city broke out. Trump also pulled the US out of the WHO.
In his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, Trump also attacked the WHO, saying it was “practically controlled by China”.
Last week, Chairman Yang Xiaoming of the China National Biotec Group, which received approval to start phase 3 trials for its coronavirus vaccine candidates in the United Arab Emirates, said 350,000 people had been injected with the experimental vaccines under the program be.
Yang Sheng, deputy director of the National Medical Products Administration’s drug registration bureau, said four COVID-19 vaccines developed in China have entered the final stage of human studies overseas after receiving approval from foreign authorities.
China has focused on developing five types of vaccines, and at least one clinical study is being conducted for each method. A total of 11 vaccine candidates are in various phases of testing, Yang was quoted by the state-run China Daily.
Zheng said China’s annual COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity is projected to reach 610 million doses this year and 1 billion doses by 2021. He did not provide details of the distribution of the cans.
In light of global adversity over the mass spread of the coronavirus, China is planning a diplomatic offensive to offer its vaccines at affordable costs, especially to a number of smaller countries.