BEIJING, China — Despite clinical trials being underway, the World Health Organization has expressed support for China’s campaign to vaccinate certain people against the coronavirus in July, a Chinese health official said.
Having communicated with the WHO in late June, China launched its emergency programme in July according to Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official.
“At end-June, China’s State Council approved a plan of COVID-19 vaccine emergency use program… After the approval, on June 29, we made a communication with the relevant representatives of the WHO Office in China, and obtained support and understanding from WHO.”zheng zhongwei, national health commission official for china
Essential workers and other limited groups of people who are at high risk of infection have been vaccinated, even though its efficacy and safety had not been fully established as Phase 3 clinical trials were incomplete.
Some experts have expressed concern about the move.
Dr. Mariangela Simão, assistant director-general at the WHO, said on Friday at a news conference in Geneva that countries have the autonomy to authorize the emergency use for any health product according to national regulations and legislations.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathat reassured the public that the emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccine is a “temporary solution,” and that the completions of Phase 3 trials will determine the long-term solution.
Beijing has not disclosed to the public the full details of the programme.
Three vaccine candidates are included in the emergency use programme — two developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and one from Sinovac Biotech. All three are currently in the process of conducting Phase 3 trials overseas.
A fourth experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics were approved to be used in the Chinese military in June.
According to Zheng, China’s annual production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to reach 610 million doses by end-2020 and 1 billion doses by 2021. He added that the price will be affordable to the general public.