China rapidly expands use of its experimental coronavirus vaccines

China rapidly expands use of its experimental coronavirus vaccines. China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines. While a city in China is offering a vaccine to the overall population, a biotech company is providing another free to the students going abroad.

An employee of SinoVac works in a lab at a factory producing its SARS CoV-2 Vaccine for COVID-19 named CoronaVac in Beijing on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. SinoVac’s CEO says they have injected 90 percent of its employees and family members, or about 3,000 people, and provided tens of thousands of rounds of CoronaVac to the municipal government of Beijing. It’s a highly unusual move that raises ethical and safety questions, as companies and governments worldwide race to develop a vaccine that will stop the spread of the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Jiaxing, the city in south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement Thursday. Jiaxing authorities said high-risk groups, including people who are “responsible for the basic operations of the city” will receive priority, adding that residents who have emergency needs can also join.

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, news agency AP reported.

More than 1,68,000 people signed up to receive the vaccine by means of an online review and more than 91,000 are being considered, CNBG said on its website. That page had been removed by Tuesday.

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 fruitful, offers the fledgling Chinese industry the potential for prestige and worldwide deals. Top Chinese health officials have promised a vaccine for the overall population 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 3,50,000 people outside its clinical trials, a company executive said in September. The trials have about 40,000 people enrolled.

“Currently, it seems Chinese students going abroad have a strong desire to take the vaccine,” a CNBG worker was quoted as saying by a state-owned newspaper, the Paper, based on the study results in September. Students in China who are because of start their semesters abroad say they want the vaccine because they are worried about getting sick.

“It’s very dangerous over there, the town we study in, it’s a red danger zone,” said a student who goes to class in Poland and gave only her family name, Ouyang. She signed up for the CNBG vaccine in September but hasn’t heard back yet. “We as a whole really want this vaccine.” A student who is expected to go to Britain said she signed up through the online connection after classmates said they received the vaccine.

The student, who might give only her English name, Sally, said she started to hear in September that the vaccine was available to people, for example, her. She said other students said she might need to travel to Beijing, the national capital, or Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged in December, to receive the vaccine.

In the event that the vaccine works, it might help protect students going to Europe or the United States, where the pandemic is still seething, medical experts said. But they said developers need to clarify it is unproven and monitor what happens to people who receive it.

On the off chance that the vaccine doesn’t work, then “this is giving people a misguided sensation that all is well and good,” said Sridhar Venkatapuram, a specialist in bioethics at King’s College London’s Global Health Institute.

The decision Communist Party declared the coronavirus under control in March but has warned that the risk of another outbreak is high. Travelers and visitors to public buildings still are checked for indications of infection. Those showing up from abroad are required to be quarantined for about fourteen days. The country has reported 4,634 deaths and 85,622 confirmed cases.

This week, 10 million people were tested in the eastern port of Qingdao after 12 cases were discovered last weekend, the government said Friday. That ended an almost two-month period with no local virus transmissions reported within China.

It was hazy whether Chinese students were being offered the CNBG vaccine under a similar emergency authorization that residents of Jiaxing were.

The agency that oversees drug and vaccine approvals, the National Medical Products Administration, didn’t respond to questions sent by fax. CNBG didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The final stage of clinical trials, conducted on larger groups, is used to locate any rare side effects and study the effectiveness of a treatment. The first and second stage trials are meant to determine whether a vaccine or treatment is safe.

“The manufacturer has an obligation to obtain follow-up information” from people who receive a vaccine under emergency use, news agency AP quoted K Arnold Chan, a National Taiwan University expert on drug regulation, as saying.

Failing to do that “is irresponsible and not compliant with international standards,” he wrote. More than 6,00,000 Chinese students studied abroad before the pandemic, according to Ministry of Education figures. They make up a large share of the foreign student body in the United States, Britain, Australia and some other countries.

Western universities are “not protecting their students,” Venkatapuram said. “The company is basically offering its citizens protection going outside of China, which generally is what any country would ideally be doing.”

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