Health Experts Concerned About China's Coronavirus Vaccine Rush

Health Experts Concerned About China's Coronavirus Vaccine Rush

China is set to expand its experimental coronavirus vaccine program to large portions of the population to distribute and test products before hitting global markets, the Financial Times reports.

What Happened: The Chinese government's experimental coronavirus vaccine program began in July to administer drugs for limited use. The vaccines were administered even though the final stage or phase 3 trials that confirm the overall efficacy and effectiveness had not been completed.

In an unexpected statement last month, state-owned Sinopharm Group SHTDY revealed that thousands of people in China had already been administered the company's two leading experimental coronavirus vaccines, FT noted.

The statements from the government earlier this year suggested that the experimental program was restricted to frontline workers and state employees traveling overseas to high-risk areas. The details of the full program are still unclear.

In a bizarre move, the experimental vaccine program is being expanded to the general population, a move that is highly risky, according to health experts.

Health authorities in one of China's provinces have sought details of government employees willing to receive emergency use vaccines ahead of winter, as per FT.

The document accessed by FT had a long list of "target suggested recipients" that includes transport workers, overseas travelers to high-infection countries, frozen food logistics workers, staff in supermarkets or other enclosed spaces, and employees of schools, orphanages, jails, and elderly care homes.

Why It's Important: The scale and opacity of the program have raised safety and ethical concerns from medical experts.

"It is reckless and dangerous to distribute a minimally tested vaccine about which nothing has been published," said Arthur Caplan, professor of Bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center told VOA news in an email. "Puts too many people at risk without opportunity to study safety and efficacy in a large group," he added.

"This practice can backfire if the rushed process causes a widespread distrust of the vaccine when fewer people are willing to take the vaccine. Or it can cause severe damages when vaccine complications were warned, due to the rushed trials," epidemiologist Dr. Jennifer Huang Bouey told VOA news.

China's health officials have defended the move by saying it is sanctioned by the World Health Organization, reports FT.

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