China gives unapproved experimental COVID-19 vaccine to hundreds of thousands of citizens

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China National Biotec Group Co., a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, has given two experimental vaccine candidates to hundreds of thousands of people under an emergency-use condition approved by Beijing in July, the company said this week. Separately, Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. said it has inoculated around 3,000 of its employees and their family members, including the firm’s chief executive, with its experimental coronavirus vaccine.

The three vaccine candidates are still undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials, which involve testing a vaccine’s safety and effectiveness on thousands of people. Six other leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates are also in this final phase, according to the World Health Organization.

Regulators in individual countries usually determine whether to let the broader public use a vaccine only after its testing is complete. The U.S., U.K. and Germany, where some of the leading candidates originate, haven’t yet approved any Covid-19 vaccine for use outside of clinical trials.

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The U.K.’s AstraZeneca PLC, which is developing one of the leading candidates, this week paused clinical trials that aim to enroll 30,000 people after a woman in its U.K. study developed an unexplained illness. Trials could restart depending on the outcome of an independent review of the potential safety concern.

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In contrast, China and Russia appear eager to start using their homegrown vaccines, seeking to restart their economies and claim a global public-relations victory.

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Infographic: Deaths from COVID-19 are far higher than reported estimates

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