China is preparing a major roll out of experimental COVID-19 vaccines across the country, with more than a million health care workers reportedly already receiving the jabs.
The Chinese government has at least five coronavirus vaccines currently being tested, with officials rushing to obtain final approvals before they can be administered to the country’s 1.4 billion people.
The virus emerged in Wuhan late last year and quickly spread across China and to the rest of the world.
Since then, the country has managed to mostly suppress the virus, with official figures stating there are now just over 280 active cases.
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While the last stages of testing for China’s domestically made vaccine candidates are being fast tracked to allow distribution for the general population, there are reports that citizens have reportedly already received some of the jabs.
It is understood more than one million healthcare workers have been given some of the vaccine candidates before the final approval is given.
These shots were administered under the country’s emergency use permission as they are deemed to be a high-risk category.
Since July, a range of other people have also reportedly been given jabs, including state employees and international students.
So far, there have been no indications about possible side effects.
It comes as one of China’s leading vaccine producers, Sinovac Biotech, announced it had received more than half a million dollars in extra funding for its vaccine candidate.
Sino Biopharmaceutical Limited, a Hong Kong-listed medical research firm, said on Monday that it will invest US$ 515 million ($ A697 million) for the development and production of CoronaVac, one of Sinovac’s most advanced candidates.
Sinovac said the funding will be used for the “further development, capacity expansion and manufacturing” of CoronaVac.
It added it hoped to be able to manufacture 600 million doses by the end of the year.
Sino Biopharmaceutical will receive a 15 per cent share in a Sinovac subsidiary, Sinovac Life Sciences, under the agreement.
CoronaVac is being tested in multiple countries including Brazil, where final-stage clinical trials for the jab have restarted after hitting a setback in November when a volunteer experienced an “adverse incident.”
The vaccine “has reached critical milestones in clinical trials in Asia and Latin America,” Sinovac CEO Yin Weidong said in the statement.
The company earlier said almost all its employees and their families have voluntarily taken the vaccine.
Sinopharm, another Chinese vaccine maker, said in November that nearly a million people have already taken its experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
Last week Britain became the first Western country to approve a coronavirus vaccine for general use.
UK vaccine regulators granted emergency approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last Wednesday, with the rollout expected to begin within days.
The Queen, 94, and her husband Prince Philip, 99, are expected to receive the jab within weeks.
British health officials are set to use criteria based on age and vulnerability to decide who gets the vaccine first.
Elderly care home residents and their carers will be the very first to get inoculated, followed by those aged 80 and over and frontline health and care staff.