BEIJING: Coronavirus vaccines are being developed in China. These may be ready for use by the general public as early as November, an official with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
China has four COVID-19 vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials. At least three of those have already been offered to essential workers under an emergency use programme launched in July.
Phase 3 clinical trials were proceeding smoothly and the vaccines could be ready for the general public in November or December, CDC chief biosafety expert Guizhen Wu said in an interview with state TV late on Monday.
Wu, who said she has experienced no abnormal symptoms in recent months after taking an experimental vaccine herself in April, did not specify which vaccines she was referring to.
A unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and U.S.-listed Sinovac Biotech are developing the three vaccines under the state’s emergency use programme. A fourth Covid-19 vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June.
Sinopharm said in July that its vaccine could be ready for public use by the end of this year after the conclusion of Phase 3 trials.
Global vaccine makers are racing to develop an effective vaccine against the virus which has killed more than 925,000 people. Leading Western vaccine makers pledged earlier this month to uphold scientific study standards and reject any political pressure to rush the process.
Stringent regulations in the U.S., European Union, Japan and Australia have historically blocked the sale of Chinese vaccines. But Yin said that could change.
SinoVac is developing one of China’s top four vaccine candidates along with state-owned SinoPharm, which has two in development, and military-affiliated private firm CanSino.
More than 24,000 people are currently participating in clinical trials of CoronaVac in Brazil, Turkey, and Indonesia, with additional trials scheduled for Bangladesh and possibly Chile, Yin said. SinoVac chose those countries because they all had serious outbreaks, large populations and limited research and development capacity, he said.
He spoke to reporters during a tour of a SinoVac plant south of Beijing. Built in a few months from scratch, the plant is designed to enable SinoVac to produce half a million vaccine doses a year.
The bio-secure facility was already busy on Thursday filling tiny bottles with the vaccine and boxing them.
The company projects it will be able to produce a few hundred million doses of the vaccine by February or March of next year.
SinoVac is also starting to test small doses of CoronaVac on children and the elderly in China after noticing rising numbers of cases globally among those two groups.
Yin said the company would prioritize distribution of the vaccine to countries hosting human trials of CoronaVac.
While the vaccine has not yet passed the phase 3 clinical trials, a globally accepted standard, SinoVac has already injected thousands of people in China under an emergency use provision.