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16.10.2020 Asia

China starts distributing experimental Covid vaccine in eastern Jiaxing

By Michael Fitzpatrick - RFI
China starts distributing experimental Covid vaccine in eastern Jiaxing
LISTEN OCT 16, 2020

A 50 euro double-dose experimental coronavirus vaccine has been made available to some residents in an eastern Chinese city, according to health officials, in the first mass distribution of an as-yet unproven vaccine.

Officials in Jiaxing city said on Thursday that residents aged between 18 and 59 with "urgent needs" can approach clinics for treatment with a Sinovac Biotech vaccine that authorities have been giving to groups such as medical workers.

The statement from Jiaxing's centre for disease control and prevention did not specify what constituted "urgent needs".

Authorities did not say how many people in the city had been given the vaccine, which comes in two doses, administered up to 28 days apart and costing a total of 400 yuan (about 50 euros).

Vaccines already widely in use

China has already given hundreds of thousands of essential workers at ports, hospitals and other high-risk areas an experimental vaccine, according to officials.

Eleven Chinese vaccines are now at the stage of clinical trials -- with four in advanced Phase Three trials -- nut none has been approved for mass market distribution.

China is desperate to win the global race for a vaccine against a virus which emerged in the central city of Wuhan, as it seeks to complete its narrative of recovery from the public health and economic calamity.

No serious adverse reactions

China has approved some candidates for emergency use, with officials saying they have not seen serious adverse reactions.

Beijing has also made bold predictions on a broader rollout before year-end as it battles a storm of international criticism over its early handling of the outbreak.

Health officials told a press conference last month that the country expects to be able to produce 610 million vaccine doses annually by year-end, stressing the treatment would be affordable.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also previously declared that Chinese vaccines would be made a "global public good".

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