A city in eastern China is offering an experimental coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine outside of clinical trials for around $60 to high-risk groups under an emergency inoculation programme, officials said, even as experts raised concerns over the mass rollout for an as-yet unproven vaccine.
The Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine — called CoronaVac — is being offered in the city of Jiaxing to care givers, especially epidemic-prevention workers, public service personnel and port inspectors, and will eventually be offered to regular citizens, the state media reported on Friday, quoting officials.
“The vaccine, developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, will be provided to people aged between 18 and 59 at a price of 400 yuan ($59.5) for two shots,” the Jiaxing Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, adding that the vaccine hasn’t been “officially approved for marketing” and is only approved for “urgent needs”.
However, the Jiaxing CDC did not specify what constituted as “urgent needs”.
Authorities also did not say how many people in the city will be given the vaccine, which comes in two doses at an interval of 14-28 days.
The Sinovac vaccine is in late stage trials in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey, and the company has said that an interim analysis of phase 3 trial data could come as early as November, news agency Reuters reported.
In late June, China’s National Health Commission (NHC), under the Chinese vaccine management law, had allowed emergency vaccines to be used on people who are at a high risk of contracting the deadly virus, including medical workers, frontline pandemic control workers and customs workers – a move considered controversial by experts as the vaccines are still at a trail stage. Since July, China has administered such vaccines to hundreds of thousands of people under the programme.
On September 25, a top Chinese health official said Beijing had gained the “understanding and support” from the World Health Organization (WHO) before starting the emergency use programme. In an emailed statement to HT the next day, the WHO said China’s decision to launch the programme was a domestic authorisation. “These are issued at the discretion of countries and not subject to WHO approval,” it said.
Until late September, 11 Chinese Covid-19 vaccines had entered clinical trials, with four in phase 3 clinical trials.
Last week, China announced it will join COVAX, an international initiative aimed at ensuring equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines, becoming the largest economy to support the initiative so far.
The number of daily cases of Covid-19 in mainland China has fallen drastically from the peaks seen in February.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China stands at over 85,500, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.
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