Some of the coronavirus vaccinations being developed by China could be ready for public use by November, a medical chief has claimed.
Guizhen Wu, the chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said she was injected in April and has had no side effects.
It comes following news China has been inoculating tens of thousands of its citizens with experimental Covid vaccines.
This is despite expert concerns over the safety of the drugs that have not completed standard testing.
The East Asian communist country, where the virus originated last year, launched a vaccine emergency use programme in July.
The scheme offered three experimental shots developed by a unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and US-listed Sinovac Biotech.
A fourth Covid-19 vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June.
Aiming to protect essential workers and reduce the likelihood of a resurgence, the vaccines are also grabbing attention in the global scramble by governments to secure supplies, potentially helping reframe China’s perceived role in the pandemic.
Beijing has not released official data on the uptake in domestic targeted groups, which include medical, transport and food market workers.
But China National Biotec Group (CNBG), the Sinopharm unit developing two of the emergency use vaccines, and Sinovac have confirmed that at least tens of thousands of people have been inoculated.
Additionally, CNBG said it had given hundreds of thousands of doses.
One of its vaccines requires an individual receive two or three shots to be inoculated.
Beijing has engaged a public, top-down approach to endorse the experimental vaccines and foster community support.
Among those lining up for shots early on were the chief executives of Sinovac and Sinopharm and the military’s research chief.
Ms Wu told state TV this week: “So far, among the people who who were vaccinated, no one has been sick with the disease.
“So far, [the vaccination scheme] works very well. No side effect occurred.”
Her comments were broadly in line with those of CNBG last week that none of tens of thousands of people who travelled to high-risk countries and regions after being vaccinated had been infected, and there was “no case of obvious adverse reaction”.
China’s approach runs counter to that of many Western countries, where experts have warned against authorising the emergency use of vaccines that have not completed testing, citing a lack of understanding about longer-term efficacy and potential side effects.
Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University, described China’s emergency use programme as “very problematic,” saying it was impossible to judge efficacy without a clinical trial standard control group.
“You’re vaccinating people and you don’t know if it’s going to protect them,” Ms Durbin said, adding recipients of the experimental vaccines could eschew other protective measures.
Vaccine safety came into sharp focus last week when AstraZeneca Plc paused late-stage clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, one of the most advanced in development.
The company resumed British trials over the weekend after receiving the green light from safety watchdogs, and, along with other leading Western vaccine makers has pledged to uphold scientific study standards and reject any political pressure to rush the process.
Russia is one of the few other countries to authorise the use of an experimental vaccine, making its own “Sputnik V” vaccine mandatory for certain groups including teachers.
India is considering emergency authorization for a vaccine, particularly for the elderly and people in high-risk workplaces.