A Chinese health official confirmed on Friday that the World Health Organisation gave China its support and understanding in order to administer experimental coronavirus vaccines to people whilst clinical trials are ongoing.
China starts its own emergency programme in July, after communicating with the WHO late in June, according to Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official.
Whilst hundreds of thousands of essential workers and other certain groups of people that are considered at high risk of infection have been given the vaccine in China, its efficacy and safety have not been fully established, with Phase 3 clinical trials still being incomplete.
Zheng told a news conference that “At end-June, China’s State Council approved a plan of COVID-19 vaccine emergency use program”.
He added that “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”.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in Geneva earlier this month that national regulatory authorities could approve the use of medical products within their own jurisdictions given China’s current emergency situation, yet he described this only as a “temporary solution”.
He added that the long-term solution is dependent on the completion of the Phase 3 trials.
Whilst China has not disclosed information with regards to this emergency use programme, there are at least three vaccine candidates being used, including two developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and another one from Sinovac Biotech, with all three of these being in Phase 3 trials overseas.
A fourth experimental vaccine is also being developed by CanSino Biologics, with this being approved to be used in the Chinese military in June.
Zheng claimed that China’s annual production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines is set to reach 610 million doses by the end of 2020, whilst also reaching 1 billion doses by 2021.
He concluded by saying that the vaccine price will be affordable for the general public.