China offers experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the public at N22k-a-shot


Hundreds have dashed to a hospital in China to secure a jab of an experimental coronavirus vaccine which is yet to clear clinical trials.

Families jogged to the community health centre in Yiwu, Zhejiang, and lined up hours before it opened this morning after doctors said the jab would be made available for £45 (about N22,000) to those that wanted it.

Volunteers were required to sign a disclaimer detailing the possible side-effects before they received a dose of the as yet un-approved vaccine CoronaVac, which has been developed by state-owned company Sinovac Biotech. They will need to arrive for a second appointment in 28 days.

Supplies of the experimental vaccine ran out within two-and-a-half hours, as families grabbed an appointment number before queuing up and reading through the side-effects.

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China has been inoculating its key workers against coronavirus under an emergency programme since July, but this marks the first time it has made the vaccine available to the general public. It comes after Beijing said a vaccine against coronavirus could be launched in three weeks.

Nations have locked-horns in the race to become the first to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with Oxford University’s candidate initially seen as a frontrunner.

The families were pictured queuing outside the community health centre in a line that snaked around the block as they hurriedly tried to get the jab.

One woman, when quizzed by a BBC reporter, gave him a nervous smile before revealing she was getting the jab because she ‘trusted’ the doctors.

The vaccine has not yet been cleared by medical regulators for general use, meaning it could still have uncertain side effects.

It works by exposing people to an inactivated version of the virus, which triggers the development of an immune response. But the latest results from trials are yet to be released.

Officials in the city said yesterday it would be made available to key workers and those at high risk from Covid-19. The volunteers, aged between 18 and 59, with ‘urgent need for vaccination’ would be offered the jab.

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‘As it has not officially been registered for the market, this type of vaccine is only approved for urgent use’, the notice added.

A CDC staff member told state media the Global Times: ‘Details of when and how the vaccines will be distributed to (the vaccination sites) across the city are still being worked out.’

The vaccine from Sinovac Biotech is also in late stage trials in Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey, and the company has said that an interim analysis of Phase 3 trial data could come as early as November.

Bio Farma, a state-owned firm in Indonesia which has reached a deal for at least 40 million doses from Sinovac, said this week the vaccine will cost around 200,000 rupiah (£10.48) per dose when it becomes available in the southeast Asian country.

Chinese authorities have yet to release pricing details for potential Covid-19 vaccines. But Beijing has said that while reasonable profits for companies are permitted, Covid-19 vaccines should be priced close to cost.

China has four of the world’s eight vaccines that are in the third phase of trials, typically the last step ahead of regulatory approval, as countries race to stub out the virus and reboot battered economies.

At least three of those have already been offered to hundreds of thousands of essential workers under an emergency scheme launched in July with no reported adverse effects, according to officials.

A unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and US-listed Sinovac Biotech are developing the three vaccines under the state’s emergency use programme.

A fourth coronavirus vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June.

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