China’s provincial governments are placing orders for domestically-made experimental coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they can reach the country’s 1.4 billion people.
Even without final approval, more than a million healthcare workers and others in China who are considered to be at high risk of infection have received experimental vaccines with permission for emergency use.
The developers have yet to reveal how effective their vaccines are and the possible side effects.
China’s fledgling pharmaceutical industry has at least five vaccines from four producers that are being tested in more than a dozen countries, including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.
Health experts say that even if they are successful, the certification process for the US, Europe, Japan, and other developed countries could be too complex to use there.
However, China said it will ensure that the products are affordable for developing countries and has been actively seeking deals around the world.
Yesterday 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinovac arrived in Indonesia, the government said.
“We are very grateful, thank God, the vaccine is now available so that we can immediately curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease,” said President Joko Widodo.
Within China, only one developer so far, China National Pharmaceutical Group, known as Sinopharm, said in November that it requested final market approval for the use of its vaccine.
Others have been approved for emergency use in people considered to be at high risk of infection.
“We must be prepared for large-scale production,” Deputy Prime Minister Sun Chunlan said during a visit to developers on Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Sun, which has overseen much of the country’s response, visited one of Sinopharm’s subsidiary companies in Beijing, Sinovac, and a research laboratory under the National Medical Products Administration, a regulatory agency that approves medical products for public use. .
The government has yet to say how many people it plans to vaccinate.
Sun said plans call for vaccinating border personnel and other high-risk populations this month.
Companies are using more traditional techniques than Western developers.
They say that unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which must be kept frozen at temperatures as low as minus 70 degrees Celsius, theirs can be stored between 2 and 8 C.
Chinese producers have yet to say how they will be distributed.
Health experts wonder why China is using experimental vaccines on such a wide scale now that the outbreak is largely under control within its borders.
Health officials previously said that China will be able to manufacture 610 million doses by the end of this year and increase to 1 billion doses next year.
The government of Jiangsu province, where the main city of Nanjing is located, issued a procurement notice for vaccines from Sinovac and Sinopharm on Wednesday for emergency use.
Authorities in the western province of Sichuan, which has about 85 million people, announced that they were already buying vaccines.
An official newspaper in Anhui province, southeast of Beijing, said a local residential committee issued a notice asking if residents want a vaccine.
Ads from Sichuan and Anhui said the vaccine, administered in two injections, would cost a total of 400 yuan (AU $ 82).
The Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines were approved for emergency use in July.
In October, the Zhejiang province south of Shanghai offered the public vaccination under emergency use authorization.
He said that people considered high risk would have priority.
In November, the Sinopharm Communist Party secretary said that nearly a million people had received his vaccine.
In September, Sinovac’s chief executive said that about 3,000 of his employees had been vaccinated. He said the company provided tens of thousands of doses to the Beijing city government.
Sinopharm has ongoing clinical trials in 10 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Peru, and Argentina, with nearly 60,000 volunteers.
It has built two facilities in China capable of producing 200 million doses a year.
Sinovac has trials in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia. Their most recent published data, a study in the scientific journal The Lancet, showed that their candidate produced lower levels of antibodies in people than those who had recovered from COVID-19.
The company projects that it will be able to produce a few hundred million doses of the vaccine by February or March of next year.
Another producer, CanSino, is testing in Russia, Pakistan and Mexico and is seeking partnerships in Latin American countries.
Their vaccine, which has been used in emergencies by the Chinese military, uses a harmless adenovirus to carry genes into human cells and generate an immune response.
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A fourth company, Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biologic Pharmacy Co., is conducting end-stage trials in China.