China has approved the use of an experimental coronavirus vaccine for members of the country’s military, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.
The vaccine, known as Ad5-nCoV, was reportedly developed by a team from the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and Tianjin-based pharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics. In a statement Monday, CanSino announced that the vaccine candidate had successfully passed two phases of clinical trials indicating it was safe to use and would provide a “relatively high” immune response to the coronavirus antigen.
The essential phase three trials are yet to take place, which will confirm if the vaccine can successfully prevent infection. Phases one and two typically indicate whether the vaccine is safe for use without any unwarranted side effects, although all candidates must complete phase three to obtain and license to go on sale.
According to Major General Chen Wei, who led the vaccine’s development, the vaccine is based on a similar Ebola vaccine that he previously produced, and will join the range of drugs owned by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for use in major outbreaks. As the vaccine has not yet been approved for general use, only the military will have access to it over the next year
The race to produce a coronavirus vaccine is a matter of overwhelming international significance, not just to bring the worldwide pandemic to an end, but also for countries to show that they are at the cutting edge of scientific research. Over a dozen vaccine candidates are currently in development around the world, including several from China. Other major trials are taking place at Oxford University in the United Kingdom and the Bar Ilan University in Israel.
Should China be the first country to develop an effective vaccine, dictator Xi Jinping has promised to provide the world with “free” coronavirus vaccines paid for by Beijing. However, China’s record of successfully producing vaccines in recent years has been so abysmal that communist state media openly admit that they prefer using international manufacturers.
The main issue has been that Chinese companies have deliberately produced watered down vaccines that do not produce the desired immunity, presumably in an attempt to maximize profits. One such company, Changsheng Biotechnology, produced and distributed nearly one million substandard vaccines to children across the country, leading to widespread protests and the company being hit with a $1.3 billion fine for malpractice.
The outbreak, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has wreaked devastation on the global economy and threatens to plunge hundreds of millions of people into poverty. As of Tuesday, more than 10 million cases of the virus have been recorded worldwide, leading to over half a million deaths.