China Claims Its Coronavirus Vaccine Is ‘Safe and Effective’ for Children

A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD's vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6, 2020. (Photo by NOEL CELIS / AFP) (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese biotech firm Sinovac Life Sciences claimed in a regulatory filing on Monday its coronavirus vaccine is “safe and effective for ages three to 17.”

The other major Chinese vaccine maker, Sinopharm, is also reportedly conducting clinical trials on children.

China’s state-run Global Times pushed back against complaints of opaque testing and dubious effectiveness for Chinese coronavirus vaccines by touting Sinovac as the “world’s first to release relevant data of ongoing trials on infant and teenage participants.”

According to Sinovac medical director Zeng Gang, trials on young patients have been proceeding smoothly, with few safety concerns:

So far, the vaccine is generally safe for 72 adolescents in phase I and 480 in phase II of the trials conducted in China, with an overall adverse reaction rate of 23.7 percent to 29 percent, but mostly mild reactions, Zeng suggested, adding that only two children, aged three and six respectively, reported fever after the shots. 

Groups getting different dosage in controlled trials have all produced a qualified immune response to the vaccine. “But exactly what dose should be used to inoculate different age groups is still under discussion,” said Zeng.

The Global Times report suggested China is eager to close its “vaccination gap” with Western nations – a gap that exists in part because Chinese citizens have been told the coronavirus was utterly defeated, so they feel little urgency to take experimental medicines – and surging ahead with pediatric vaccinations might be a quick way to make up lost ground:

Amid concerns of an immunization gap and Western media’s doubts about slow inoculation, China has aimed to cover a wider population and include different age groups into the national immunization plan. The Global Times learned that the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) held a nationwide online meeting on Monday to mobilize the public to accelerate vaccination, with some areas vowing to vaccinate 65 percent of their local population by the end of the year.

At least 45 million people in China have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 21 million have received two, the second highest total inoculation in the world, Chinese CDC deputy director Feng Zijian said on Monday.

Before the advent of the coronavirus, the Chinese public was angered by a string of high-profile disasters at pharmaceutical companies, several of them involving pediatric vaccines.

China’s coronavirus vaccines have generally been rated much lower in effectiveness by outside analysts than products from the U.S., U.K., and Russia. Sinovac’s vaccine was found to be only a little over 50% effective during Brazilian clinical trials in January.

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