Days after Russia approved a COVID-19 vaccine without completing all the mandatory tests, and also offered it to India, it has now emerged that China has already started using a vaccine that is still under development.
The vaccine, being developed by state-owned Sinopharm, is currently undergoing phase-3 trials in the United Arab Emirates. But a senior Chinese health official revealed on state television that it was already being administered to people since July 22 under emergency use authorisation.
A report in The Washington Post said the head of China’s coronavirus vaccine development programme, Zheng Zongwei, had acknowledged on state television that medical workers and some government workers were being given this vaccine since July 22, and that it was likely to be given to many more people in the coming months.
“In order to prevent the disease spread in the fall and winter, we are considering a moderate expansion in the programme… The purpose would be to first build an immunity barrier among special groups in the population,” Zheng is reported to have said.
This vaccine is different from the one that has been approved for use only on the soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army. That vaccine, developed by CanSino Biologics in collaboration with Academy of Military Medical Sciences, was approved for limited use in the last week of June. There is no information on the number of people who have already been injected with that vaccine.
Sinopharm vaccine, therefore, is the first vaccine to be authorised for use on the general public, though only on special groups right now.
Pharma major AstraZeneca has said it had not held any talks with the US government on emergency use authorisation for its vaccine before the Presidential elections on November 3.
A report in the Financial Times on Sunday had claimed that the Trump administration had decided to grant emergency use authorisation to the AstraZeneca vaccine, being developed in collaboration with the Oxford University, ahead of the elections. Trump is seeking a re-election.
“It would be premature to speculate on that possibility,” the pharmaceutical company said in a statement, according to a news report in The Politico.
On Saturday, Trump accused the ‘deep state’ within the Food and Drug Administration, the drug regulator in the US, for deliberately delaying the approval of a Coronavirus vaccine to sabotage his re-election chances. In the past, he has suggested that it was possible that a vaccine would become a reality before the elections.