A city in eastern China has started inoculating some people against the coronavirus with a vaccine that has not finished late-stage clinical trials, ignoring warnings from scientists that the campaign could carry major health risks.
The announcement on Thursday, by health officials in the eastern city of Jiaxing, highlights how China has expanded its mass vaccination campaign even before rigorous testing concludes. The push has bewildered several scientists, who have pointed out that China’s outbreak has been well under control for months.
The vaccine, developed by the private Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, is being provided on an “emergency use” basis in Jiaxing, the local Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. The agency said the government would prioritize people in relatively high-risk jobs, including medical workers, port inspectors and public service personnel.
After that, ordinary citizens would be allowed to make reservations at community-level vaccination sites, the agency said. Two doses would be made available to people aged 18 to 59 for around $60, to be given at an interval of 14 to 28 days.
Since July, Chinese vaccine makers have vaccinated tens of thousands of employees at state-owned companies, government officials and executives from vaccine companies. The Chinese government has indicated in recent weeks that it would expand the campaign to include teachers, travelers and supermarket workers.
Zhejiang, the eastern province where Jiaxing lies, “has steadily and orderly promoted the emergency use of the coronavirus vaccine” Chen Guangsheng, a top provincial official in charge of epidemic prevention efforts, said on Friday. He added that Zhejiang had also started “the voluntary vaccination of key recommended subjects.”
Mr. Chen told a news briefing that the government had administered 743,000 doses of flu and coronavirus vaccines. An official refused to provide a breakdown.
Mr. Chen’s comments prompted several Chinese media outlets to misreport that the figure was referring to the number of people who had taken a vaccine for the coronavirus.