As China rushes to keep up with the global race to find a coronavirus vaccine, a state-owned drugmaker is reporting promising results for a candidate after administering doses to nearly a million people in the country.
For the past few months, the company, Sinopharm, has been inoculating people — including its employees and their families — outside of the traditional testing process as part of an emergency-use policy, even though its two vaccine candidates have not been formally proved safe or effective.
China’s push to be the first country to bring a vaccine to market before the completion of late-stage trials has prompted scientists to warn that the government is gambling with the health of its people.
Sinopharm’s chairman, Liu Jingzhen, told the local news media on Tuesday that only a few people had reported mild symptoms from one of its vaccines, and that no one had suffered serious adverse reactions. “Our progress so far, from research and development to clinical trials and production and emergency use, is leading the world in all aspects,” he said without offering evidence.
Though members of the public in China have long been skeptical of vaccines after a spate of quality scandals, many have been lining up to be inoculated. Last week, Mr. Liu said that 56,000 people who had taken the company’s vaccine had traveled abroad, and that none contracted Covid-19.
The coronavirus is largely under control in China, so local drugmakers have looked abroad to recruit trial participants. Mr. Liu told Chuanguan News on Tuesday that Sinopharm had inoculated nearly 60,000 people as part of late-stage human testing that it was conducting in 10 countries, including Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He said that 40,000 of those inoculated showed promising results, though he did not provide details.
The report comes as two American drugmakers pulled ahead this week in the global vaccine race. Moderna announced on Monday that its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective, while Pfizer said on Wednesday that the results of its late-stage trial showed its vaccine was 95 percent effective with no serious side effects. China has four candidates in late-stage human testing.
In other news around the world:
South Korea reported 363 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest caseload since late August, when the country was hit by a second wave of infections. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun urged the public to avoid social gatherings and to stay home as much as possible. He also warned that the latest spike, which is concentrated mainly in the Seoul metropolitan area, was threatening the country’s vaunted K-Quarantine strategy of fighting the virus while keeping the economy running.
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