A province in eastern China has started a Covid-19 inoculation programme in an apparent pilot scheme for the whole country.
With the vaccines still in the final stage of human trials, Zhejiang has approved the “emergency use” of the vaccine for autumn and winter, Chen Guangsheng, vice secretary-general of the provincial government, said on Friday.
China first approved the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines in June. As of September, more than 350,000 people had been given the injections and none had suffered severe side effects, Science and Technology Daily reported last month.
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But Zhejiang is the first place to start offering vaccinations through the local centre for disease control and prevention (CDC), the usual network for inoculations.
“The vaccine candidates made by Chinese pharmaceutical companies have entered phase III clinical trials. Their safety and efficacy are up to the expected standards. Zhejiang has evaluated the epidemic situation of the upcoming autumn and winter and has made plans for the emergency use of the coronavirus shots,” Chen said.
He added that the priority would be given to “key populations” and residents of areas hit by outbreaks.
The first people to be vaccinated will be “key protected targets”, a category that includes medical workers, disease control and prevention staff, customs and border control staff and people working at quarantine centres.
The next group will include essential workers, public servants, staff at “special venues” and people going on business trips overseas.
After this, the vaccine will be made available to members of the general public aged between 18 and 59. The vaccine will cost 400 yuan (just under US$60) and will consist of two separate injections, given two to four weeks apart.
Zhejiang CDC has bought the vaccines from the Beijing-based pharmaceutical company Sinovac and will distribute the shots to community health centres across the province, according to a statement from the local CDC in Jiaxing city.
“We have not started to give inoculations yet. I have not seen the vaccine myself and I only know that it has been distributed from the higher authorities,” an unidentified worker at Jiaxing CDC told news portal Thepaper.cn.
However, a worker at the CDC branch in Haiyan county said it was not guaranteed that there were enough stocks to give the injections to everybody who wanted them.
Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, said many of those who had received the vaccines so far had received them through channels that the public did not know about.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that coronavirus vaccines have been distributed through the CDC network,” Tao said.
“I guess that Zhejiang’s inoculation programme is a pilot for the state authorities before rolling out the vaccine injections across the country.”
In an interview with the state broadcaster CCTV last month, Wu Guizhen, the chief biosafety expert at the national CDC, said ordinary people would have access to locally developed coronavirus vaccines as early as November or December.
But Tao said he did not think most people in China would receive the vaccine.
“People have low willingness to be inoculated thanks to China’s outstanding work in curbing the epidemic. Besides, the Chinese public generally don’t trust vaccines,” he said.
Last week, the State-owned China National Biotec Group said it would give students studying overseas its experimental Covid-19 vaccine for free.
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This article Chinese province’s coronavirus vaccination scheme could be model for rest of country first appeared on South China Morning Post