China to start use of Covid-19 Vaccine for one month

It has been a month since China officially launched the urgent use of COVID-19 vaccines on July 22, while vaccines were going through clinical trials, a National Health Commission official said Saturday. Recipients who got their first dose since then revealed they had few adverse reactions and no one reported a fever. 

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

The Global Times has previously reported that employees of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) preparing to go abroad and frontline doctors have been offered two choices of home 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.

For the next step towards preventing a possible outbreak in autumn and winter, the availability of vaccines will be extended to people working in food markets, transport systems and service industries.

A paper circulated online by a Chinese tourism company – TravelSky Technology – revealed that the company’s top researchers, airport terminal inspectors and other employees with frequent business activities abroad may have priority for free vaccinations.

The number of people vaccinated urgently can reach hundreds of thousands across China, as staff in larger sectors are being offered free injections, said Tao Lina, an immunology expert based in Shanghai, on Sunday. 

“But it’s hard to give an accurate figure since the Chinese military started mass vaccinations, but it hasn’t released details,” Tao said.

The inactivated vaccine is likely to be approved for commercialization by the end of the year, although the timing will depend primarily on the progress of late-stage clinical trials abroad, vaccine maker Sinopharm said on Sunday.

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

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

“My colleagues and I just felt a little stunned on the afternoon of vaccination, but we passed it pretty quickly. There was no local redness, swelling or pain, and we didn’t hear of anyone reporting a fever,” said Wu, who will take his second dose on day 28 after the first shot. 

“People seem to be relaxed about vaccination, as most of us feel confident about nationally developed vaccines,” he said.

At least 10 percent of employees, mainly project managers abroad, have been vaccinated in groups since they were notified on July 30. The vaccination process is ongoing, Wu said.

Some employees who were abroad during the outbreak were also vaccinated by Chinese medical teams who went abroad, Wu said.

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

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

The inactivated vaccine will be effective against all detected strains of the virus at least in mid-July, with lower odds and degrees of adverse reactions than candidates for the same type of vaccine being researched, Yang Xiaoming, head of Sinopharm, told The Global Times in an earlier 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 Saturday night that more than 20,000 people in the United Arab Emirates have taken inactivated COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinopharm in Phase III clinical trials, which have shown a high level of safety. The effectiveness of the vaccine is under observation.

“The Phase III study in the UAE has not had reported cases of side effects so far,” Yang said. “The volunteers joined faster than expected and the vaccine was worth the wait.”