China says WHO gave blessing for COVID-19 vaccine emergency use programme


BEIJING:The World Health Organization (WHO) gave China its support and understanding to start administering experimental coronavirus vaccines to people while clinical trials were still under way, a Chinese health official said on Friday (Sep 25).

China launched its emergency programme in July, having communicated with the WHO in late June, according to Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official.

Hundreds of thousands essential workers and other limited groups of people considered at high risk of infection have been given the vaccine, even though its efficacy and safety had not been fully established as Phase 3 clinical trials were incomplete.

“At end-June, China’s State Council approved a plan of COVID-19 vaccine emergency use programme,” Zheng told a news conference.

READ: China’s CNBG to donate 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to medics in Wuhan

“After the approval, on Jun 29, we made a communication with the relevant representatives of the WHO Office in China, and obtained support and understanding from WHO,” Zheng said.

WHO’s representative in China did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in Geneva this month that national regulatory authorities could approve use of medical products within their own jurisdictions in the current emergency situation, but described that as a “temporary solution”.

The long-term solution lay in completion of Phase 3 trials, the WHO official said.

READ: Chinese state-backed firm expects COVID-19 vaccine approval for public use within months

Beijing has not publicly released full details of its emergency use programme.

At least three vaccination candidates, including two developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and one from Sinovac Biotech, all in Phase 3 trials overseas, are included in the emergency use programme.

A fourth experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics were approved to be used in the Chinese military in June.

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