China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to groups facing high infection risks since July, a health official told state media. No vaccine has yet passed final, large-scale trials to prove it is safe and effective enough to protect people from contracting the virus that has led to almost 800,000 deaths worldwide.
The aim is to boost the immunity of specific groups of people, including medical workers and those who work at food markets and in the transportation and service sectors, Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official, told state TV in an interview aired late on Saturday. Authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use program to try to prevent possible outbreaks during the autumn and winter, added Zheng, who heads the Chinese government-led team that coordinates state resources for coronavirus vaccine development.
The guidelines for emergency use of potential coronavirus vaccines, approved on June 24, according to Zheng, have not been made public. State media Global Times reported in June that China had been offering candidate coronavirus vaccines to employees at state-owned firms traveling overseas.
Some countries are skeptical about China's use of experimental vaccines. Papua New Guinea has denied entry to Chinese nationals who participated in a coronavirus vaccine trial, according to the Australian newspaper.
China has several coronavirus vaccine candidates in the late stage of development. Four of the world's seven vaccines that are in the third phase of trials are from China. Two of the candidates are from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a unit of state-owned pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).