Policy & Regulation
China says WHO gave support for its COVID-19 vaccine emergency use programme
25 September 2020 -

An official of China's National Health Commission, Zheng Zhongwei, has said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave China its support and understanding to start administering experimental COVID-19 vaccines to people while clinical trials were still underway, Reuters news agency reported on Friday.

According to Zheng, China launched its emergency programme in July 2020, having communicated with the WHO in late June 2020.

Zheng was quoted as telling a news conference: "At end-June, China's State Council approved a plan of COVID-19 vaccine emergency use programme. After the approval, on 29 June, we made a communication with the relevant representatives of the WHO Office in China, and obtained support and understanding from WHO."

Reportedly, hundreds of thousands essential workers and other limited groups of people considered at high risk of infection have been given the vaccine, even though its efficacy and safety had not been fully established as Phase 3 clinical trials were incomplete.

WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan had said that national regulatory authorities could approve use of medical products within their own jurisdictions in the current emergency situation, but described that as a "temporary solution", adding that the long-term solution lay in completion of Phase 3 trials.

Currently, at least three vaccination candidates, including two developed by state-backed China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and one from Sinovac Biotech, all in Phase 3 trials overseas, are included in the emergency use programme in China.

A fourth experimental vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics was approved to be used in the Chinese military in June 2020.

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