Coronavirus: China ‘has been vaccinating key workers since July’

China has been giving experimental coronavirus vaccines to some key workers since July, a government official has said.

The vaccine’s use has so far been limited to people who work for state-owned companies who need to go abroad, Zheng Zhongwei, of China‘s National Health Commission, told state media.

Some medical workers, border officials and those who work at food markets could be offered the vaccine in the autumn or winter, Mr Zheng added.

Its “emergency” use was approved by Beijing last month and was rolled out on 22 July, he added.

There are currently 170 separate efforts to create a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) – but none have yet been approved.

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said yesterday it is unlikely that a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available before winter 2021.

The “emergency” vaccine being used by the Chinese government appears to be the country’s first – outside of clinical trials.

Mr Zheng told state media CCTV on Saturday: “We’ve drawn up a series of plan packages, medical consent forms, side effect monitoring plans, rescuing plans, compensation plans, to make sure the emergency use is well regulated and monitored.”

He also said the vaccine programme could be “scaled up” to prevent outbreaks in autumn and winter.

But the rest of the world has been largely sceptical about China’s vaccine claims.

Papua New Guinea border officials recently refused entry to a group of Chinese nationals because they had participated in vaccine trials, The Australian reported.

In the US, President Donald Trump is trying to fast-track the approval of the Oxford University vaccine for use before the election in November.

He is looking to get the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorise emergency use in October – a month before the vote, according to the Financial Times.

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