China gained the “understanding and support” from the World Health Organization before starting a controversial emergency use program for its Covid-19 vaccine candidates, a Chinese health official said Friday.
China has been regulating experimental COVID-19 vaccines to people since July under an emergency program approved by the Chinese government before their safety and success have been fully proven by clinical trials.
Some experts and vaccine developers in the West have warned against the early authorization of COVID-19 vaccines before the end stage trials are completed.
China’s National Health Commission official, Zheng Zhongwei said on Friday that China’s cabinet, the State Council, approved a trial plan for the use of Covid-19 vaccines at the end of June.
“After the approval, we communicated and informed the representatives from the WHO office in China and obtain the understanding and support of the World Health Organization(WHO),” he told a news conference.
On Friday, during a briefing, the WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products said: “Countries have autonomy according to their national regulations and legislations to issue emergency use authorizations for any health product, and China and other countries have already done so for different products. And WHO has emergency use listing provisions and has issued already several products for diagnostics.”
China has been one of the biggest candidate in the global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. It currently has 11 vaccines in clinical trials and four in Phase 3 trials. There are 38 vaccines in human trials globally, nine have reached the last stage of testing, WHO.
Last month, Zheng revealed in an interview that China had been using experimental COVID-19 vaccines on people in “high risk” professions since July 22.
Workers at high risk with subjection to the virus, including medical personnel, prevention personnel, medical staff, and customs and border personnel, were eligible to receive the vaccine, he said in the interview.
The vaccines were developed by the China National Biotec Group Corporation, known as Sinopharm, have not completed Phase 3 trials, .
On Sinopharm’s website this month, the company said its two vaccine candidates had been administered under the emergency use program approved by the government.
According to the firm’s general counsel, Zhou Song said the vaccines were used on medical professionals, diplomats to countries, and company employees working overseas under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
“There was not a single case that showed negative effects, nor anyone infected,” Zhou said.
Phase 3 trials for Sinopharm’s vaccines are being conducted in the UAE, Bahrain, Peru, Morocco, and Argentina.
Last week, the UAE approved the emergency use of a Sinopharm vaccine for frontline workers, according to the health ministry.
Sinovac Biotec Chinese pharmaceutical company developed vaccines are also included in China’s emergency use program, according to Reuters.
The program comes after the Chinese government approved the use of a different vaccine candidate for the country’s military in June.