China approves COVID-19 vaccine candidate for emergency use

China has approved the use of Sinovac Biotech Ltd’s coronavirus vaccine candidate CoronaVac for emergency cases as part of its program to vaccinate high-risk groups such as medical staff.
August 30, 2020 | 08:59
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A nurse holds China's Sinovac vaccine, a potential vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the Sao Lucas Hospital of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), in Porto Alegre, Brazil August 8, 2020. Photo: Reuters/Diego Vara

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceuti­cal (Sinopharm), also affirmed that it had gained emergency use approval for a coronavirus vaccine candidate in social media platform WeChat last Sunday, Reuters reported.

CNBG, which has two vaccine candidates in phase 3 clinical trials, did not reveal which of its vaccines had been cleared for emergency use.

CoronaVac, the vaccine candidate from Sinovac, is part of China's push to be at the forefront of rolling out immunizations against the deadly novel coronavirus -- and to demonstrate its scientific prowess. CaronaVac uses an old-fashioned approach -- employing an inactivated whole virus to prompt the body to develop immunity. The virus is grown under controlled conditions and killed chemically, so it cannot replicate to cause disease when injected into the body. This method has long been proven effective with other viruses and is still used in polio and flu shots, as well as the rabies vaccine, according to CNN.

China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to high-risk groups since July. The state media quoted a health official as saying that the authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use programme to try to avert the possible outbreaks of COVID-19 during the autumn and winter.

State media Xinhua added that two vaccine candidates were approved in June for the emergency use program launched in July, without identifying the specific products.

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Engineers work on monkey kidney cells for an experimental Covid-19 vaccine at the Sinovac Biotech facilities in Beijing on April 29. Photo: CNN

Officially, China has given little details on which vaccine candidates have been given to high-risk people under the emergency use programme and how many people have been vaccinated.

In June, prior to the emergency use programme, employees at state firms travelling overseas were allowed to take one of the two vaccines being developed by CNBG, state media Global Times reported. China’s military had also approved the use of CanSino Biologics’ vaccine candidate.

Seven vaccines against the coronavirus are in final trial stages around the world including four from China. However, no vaccine has yet passed the final stage of trials demonstrating it is safe and effective - conditions usually required to be met to get regulatory approval for mass use.

More than 24.77 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally and 837,879 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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