2 | Next crop of COVID-19 vaccine developers take more traditional route: The handful of drugmakers dominating the global coronavirus vaccine race are pushing the boundaries of vaccine technology. The next crop under development feature more conventional, proven designs. The world will need several different vaccines to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, given the sheer size of global need, variations in effects on different populations, and possible limits of effectiveness in the first crop. Many leading candidates now in final-stage testing are based on new, largely unproven technology platforms designed to produce vaccines at speed.
China has been administering experimental COVID-19 vaccines to groups facing high infection risks since July, a health official told the state media.
No vaccine has yet passed final, large-scale trials to prove it is safe and effective enough to protect people from contracting the virus that has led to almost 800,000 deaths worldwide.
The aim is to boost the immunity of specific groups of people, including medical workers and those who work at food markets and in the transportation and service sectors, Zheng Zhongwei, a National Health Commission official, told state TV in an interview aired late on August 22.
Authorities could consider modestly expanding the emergency use programme to try to prevent possible outbreaks during the autumn and winter, added Zheng, who heads the Chinese government-led team that coordinates state resources for COVID-19 vaccine development.
The guidelines for emergency use of potential COVID-19 vaccines, approved on June 24 according to Zheng, have not been made public.
State media Global Times reported in June that China had been offering candidate COVID-19 vaccines to employees at state-owned firms travelling overseas.
Some countries are sceptical about China’s use of experimental vaccines. Papua New Guinea has denied entry to Chinese nationals who participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial, according to the Australian newspaper.
China’s COVID-19 vaccines will be priced close to cost, Zheng said.
“It does not mean that companies cannot make profits,” Zheng said. “Companies should decide on moderate profits, or reasonable profits based on costs.”
A potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by a unit of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) could cost no more than 1,000 yuan ($144) for two shots, Sinopharm chairman Liu Jingzhen told state media last week.
“[The price] will definitely be lower than what Liu said,” Zheng said.