Almost half a million people have taken experimental Chinese vaccine

The Sinopharm vaccine is being offered to students for free to boost public confidence in homegrown inoculations

Almost 500,000 people in China have taken an experimental Covid-19 vaccine in a bid by the manufacturer to boost public confidence in homegrown inoculations, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

China National Biotec Group (CNBG), a division of state-owned Sinopharm, is developing two Covid-19 vaccines and offering them for free to Chinese students planning to study abroad.

A website where people can sign up to receive one of the vaccines said on Monday that 481,613 people had taken it so far with a further 93,653 applications in process. On Tuesday, the website was down and “under maintenance”.

A model of a coronavirus is displayed next to boxes for COVID-19 vaccines at an exhibit by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. China said Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, that it is joining the COVID-19 vaccine alliance known as COVAX. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

CNBG did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Chinese pharmaceutical companies have injected hundreds of thousands of people outside of clinical trials under emergency-use conditions approved by Beijing in July.

Western health experts have warned they could be endangering public health by providing shots that have not undergone full trials.

Earlier this week, nine western pharmaceutical companies released a joint statement pledging not to apply for regulatory approval for their experimental vaccines before the formal clinical testing process was complete.

China launched a vaccine emergency-use programme in July, offering three experimental shots developed by a unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group and US-listed Sinovac Biotech.
A fourth vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June.