China rapidly expands use of experimental COVID-19 vaccines

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental
coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing
another free to students going abroad.
The city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an
announcement Thursday. It said high-risk groups, including people who are "responsible for the
basic operations of the city" will receive priority, but that residents who have emergency needs
can also sign up.
The vaccine is in the final stage of clinical testing, but has not yet been approved. The city government
said it is being provided under an emergency authorization.
China National Biotech Group, another Chinese vaccine company, is offering its vaccine free to students
who study abroad in a strategy health experts say raises safety and ethical concerns.
More than 168,000 people signed up to receive the vaccine via an online survey and more than 91,000 are
being considered, CNBG said on its website. That page had been removed by Tuesday.
Chinese drug companies have five vaccines in final stages of testing but none is approved for public use.
They are part of a global race to develop a vaccine that, if successful, offers the fledgling Chinese
industry the potential for prestige and worldwide sales.
Top Chinese health officials have promised a vaccine for the general public before the end of this year.

CNBG’s vaccine has already been given to medical workers and employees of Chinese companies being sent
abroad under an emergency authorization for people in high-risk categories. It has given the vaccine to
350,000 people outside its clinical trials, a company executive said in September. The trials have about
40,000 people enrolled.
"Currently, it seems Chinese students going abroad have a strong desire to take the vaccine," a
CNBG employee was quoted as saying by a state-owned newspaper, the Paper, based on the survey results in
Students in China who are due to start their semesters abroad say they want the vaccine because they are
worried about getting sick.
"It’s very dangerous over there, the town we study in, it’s a red danger zone," said a student
who goes to school in Poland and gave only her surname, Ouyang. She signed up for the CNBG vaccine in
September but hasn’t heard back yet. "We all really want this vaccine."
A student who is due to go to Britain said she signed up via the online link after classmates said they
received the vaccine.
The student, who would give only her English name, Sally, said she started to hear in September that the
vaccine was available to people such as her. She said other students said she might need to travel to
Beijing, the national capital, or Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged in December, to receive the vaccine.

If the vaccine works, it might help protect students going to Europe or the United States, where the
pandemic is still raging, medical experts said. But they said developers need to make clear it is
unproven and keep track of what happens to people who receive it.
If the vaccine doesn’t work, then "this is giving people a false sense of security," said
Sridhar Venkatapuram, a specialist in bioethics at King’s College London’s Global Health Institute.
The ruling Communist Party declared the coronavirus under control in March but has warned that the risk
of a new outbreak is high. Travelers and visitors to public buildings still are checked for signs of
infection. Those arriving from abroad are required to be quarantined for two weeks. The country has
reported 4,634 deaths and 85,622 confirmed cases.
This week, 10 million people were tested in the eastern port of Qingdao after 12 cases were found last
weekend, the government said Friday. That ended a nearly two-month period with no local virus
transmissions reported within China.
It was unclear whether Chinese students were being offered the CNBG vaccine under the same emergency
authorization that residents of Jiaxing were.
The agency that oversees drug and vaccine approvals, the National Medical Products Administration, did
not respond to questions sent by fax. CNBG did not respond to a request for comment.
The final stage of clinical trials, conducted on larger groups, is used to find any rare side effects and
study the effectiveness of a treatment. The first and second stage trials are meant to determine whether
a vaccine or treatment is safe.
"The manufacturer has an obligation to obtain follow-up information" from people who receive a
vaccine under emergency use, K. Arnold Chan, a National Taiwan University expert on drug regulation,
said in an email.
Failing to do that "is irresponsible and not compliant with international standards," he wrote.

More than 600,000 Chinese students studied abroad before the pandemic, according to Ministry of Education
figures. They make up a large share of the foreign student body in the United States, Britain, Australia
and some other countries.
Western universities are "not protecting their students," Venkatapuram said. "The company
is basically offering its citizens protection going outside of China, which in essence is what any
country would ideally be doing."