Beijing,Dec 18–Research and development of novel coronavirus vaccines in China is nearing its conclusion, while preparations are in place for their mass production, said the head of China’s COVID-19 vaccine development task force.

There are five domestically developed vaccines undergoing phase-3 clinical trials, the final stage of trials before attaining approval from authorities, making China a leading country in global COVID-19 vaccine development, said Zheng Zhongwei, who is also director of the National Health Commission’s Development Center for Medical Science and Technology.

Despite taking a leading role in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, China is not rushing to compete with other countries in this field, Zheng told Xinhua News Agency.

Vaccines should be evaluated by many criteria, including their safety, effectiveness, accessibility and affordability, before they are approved for market use, he said, adding that China is preparing for the mass production of COVID-19 vaccines.

Researchers in China have been racing against the clock since the outbreak of the pandemic to develop COVID-19 vaccines. A total of 15 vaccines using five different technologies are currently undergoing clinical trials. Of them, five are undergoing phase-3 clinical trials in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Pakistan, as domestic trials involving a large number of volunteers are impossible due to the effective control and prevention of the pandemic on the Chinese mainland.

Several countries, including Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, have already approved the use of COVID-19 vaccines to contain the pandemic.

Emergency use

Although no COVID-19 vaccine has officially been approved by China’s top drug regulator for large-scale use, several vaccines undergoing phase-3 clinical trials have already been put into emergency use since June for priority groups such as front-line health workers, inspection and quarantine officers at ports of entry, and people traveling overseas for work. No serious adverse events have been reported during the process.

All vaccines must pass strict evaluation and approval procedures, including three stages of clinical trials, to verify their safety and efficacy before their developers can apply for registration of the vaccines, said Wang Tao from the Center for Drug Evaluation at the National Medical Products Administration.

As phase-3 trials of the Chinese vaccines are conducted overseas, the pace of these trials may be affected by many factors such as how quickly participants are enrolled, he said. The administration will complete evaluation and approval procedures as soon as possible for any vaccine that meets requirements such as obtaining adequate clinical research data to prove its efficacy and safety, he said.

Liu Bende, a cardiovascular disease expert at Wuhan Union Hospital, said despite the promising prospects for the development of China’s vaccines, the public should not pin all their hopes for COVID-19 prevention on vaccines.

“Effective epidemic prevention and control measures, such as wearing masks and hand washing, should continue to be strictly followed to prevent possible outbreaks in winter,” he said.”Intensified measures should be taken to prevent the import of the novel coronavirus.”


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