China to start COVID-19 inoculations with frontline staff

Beijing, December 19

China will soon begin coronavirus inoculations for workers in healthcare, transport and border control, a senior official said Saturday.

Vice Minister of the National Health Commission Zeng Yixin gave a few specifics but said the government was prioritising those most at risk of catching the virus.

Workers in logistics and in markets selling fresh meat and seafood would also be placed higher on the list of those receiving vaccines, along with the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.

China says it has largely contained the spread of the virus domestically, announcing just three new cases of local infection on Saturday, two of them in the capital Beijing and one in the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Vaccines produced by Chinese companies are pending approval in Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil, as manufacturers continue testing the vaccines in more than a dozen countries, including Russia, Egypt and Mexico.

Bahrain became the second country in the world to approve a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine, joining the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE last week announced that the vaccine was 86 per cent effective, marking the first public release of information on the efficacy of the shot.

Chinese companies have yet to provide information about the results of their phase 3 trials. One of the top firms, Sinopharm, did not respond to multiple messages for comment on its prior efficacy announcement.

Chinese companies have previously released phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trial data for their vaccines through peer-reviewed academic journals.

Even before the final market approval, more than a million people have received vaccine shots in a program the critics say has not been transparent about safety, efficacy or scientific merit. China officially gave emergency use approval to Sinovac and Sinopharm’s vaccine candidates in July. A third company, CanSino, had also given its vaccine to Chinese military personnel.

Those receiving the shot included frontline healthcare workers, border personnel but also workers at state-owned firms who needed to travel abroad.

In the past few months, local governments have also started buying vaccines for immunisations under emergency use.

Health officials previously said China would be able to manufacture 610 million doses by the end of this year and ramp up to one billion doses next year.

Sinopharm and Sinovac’s shot relies on a tested technology, using a killed virus to deliver the vaccine, similar to how polio immunisations are made. AP

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