Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have received experimental COVID-19 vaccines under a government emergency scheme while reporting no cases of infection, a state-owned drug firm has claimed.

The two vaccine candidates developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG) can also protect people from the coronavirus for as long as three years, Zhong Song, the company’s chief legal officer, told reporters on Monday.

It comes as China has been vaccinating ‘high-risk’ groups, including medics and border personnel, with the country’s potential coronavirus vaccines after launching the emergency plan in late July.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have received experimental COVID-19 vaccines under a government emergency scheme while reporting no cases of infection, a state-owned drug firm has claimed. The file picture shows a staff member holding a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine candidate at Sinovac Biotech Ltd stand at a trade fair in Beijing on Saturday

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have received experimental COVID-19 vaccines under a government emergency scheme while reporting no cases of infection, a state-owned drug firm has claimed. The file picture shows a staff member holding a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine candidate at Sinovac Biotech Ltd stand at a trade fair in Beijing on Saturday

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have received experimental COVID-19 vaccines under a government emergency scheme while reporting no cases of infection, a state-owned drug firm has claimed. The file picture shows a staff member holding a COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine candidate at Sinovac Biotech Ltd stand at a trade fair in Beijing on Saturday

The picture shows a booth displaying a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotech Group (CNBG) at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services on Saturday

The picture shows a booth displaying a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotech Group (CNBG) at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services on Saturday

The picture shows a booth displaying a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotech Group (CNBG) at the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services on Saturday

Chinese officials said last month they are also considering to ‘scale up’ the programme on people working in food markets, public transport and hospitality to prevent a possible virus outbreak in the autumn and winter.

CNBG’s two vaccines are among the four experimental vaccines the Chinese government allowed to use on the key workers, reported Chinese media.

Speaking to China National Radio yesterday, Mr Zhou said: ‘Hundreds of thousands of people have been vaccinated. There was no case of showing obvious side effects and no one got infected.’

The official said that those who were vaccinated included medical workers and diplomats who had travelled to high-risk countries after receiving the shots. 

‘There were tens of thousands who went to other countries with escalating virus outbreak after the vaccinations. No one got infected and that proved the effectiveness of the vaccines,’ Mr Zhou added.

The vaccines are expected to hit the market as early as the end of this year, the drug firm claimed. They are also planning to produce 300 million doses a year with its newly-built factory.

A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD's vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6

A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD's vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6

A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD’s vaccine candidate for COVID-19 coronavirus on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6

The vaccines are expected to hit the market as early as the end of this year, the drug firm claimed. An employee displays a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), during the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS)

The vaccines are expected to hit the market as early as the end of this year, the drug firm claimed. An employee displays a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), during the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS)

The vaccines are expected to hit the market as early as the end of this year, the drug firm claimed. An employee displays a coronavirus vaccine candidate from China National Biotec Group (CNBG), during the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS)

‘[We] are studying the expansion of production capacity following the requirements from relevant departments,’ the chief legal officer said.

‘After expanding the production capacity in the future, our annual production capacity may reach 800 million to one billion doses. If every person receives two injections, 800 to one billion doses can allow 400 to 500 million people to be inoculated per year.’

China has four of the world’s eight vaccines that are in the third phase of trials, typically the last step ahead of regulatory approval, as countries race to stub out the virus and reboot battered economies.

As of last month, at least 5.7 billion doses of the vaccines under development around the world had been pre-ordered.

But the World Health Organization has warned that widespread immunisation against COVID-19 may not be on the cards until the middle of next year.

The head of the World Health Organization said the U.N. health agency will not recommend any COVID-19 vaccine before it is proved safe and effective, even as Russia and China have started using their experimental vaccines before large studies have finished and other countries have proposed streamlining authorisation procedures.

At a press briefing on Friday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccines have been used successfully for decades and credited them with eradicating smallpox and bringing polio to the brink of being eliminated.

‘I would like to assure the public that WHO will not endorse a vaccine that´s not effective and safe,’ Tedros said. He said newly developed Ebola vaccines helped end the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo, noting that stopping the deadly virus was complicated by the dozens of armed groups operating in the region.

Tedros appealed to people opposed to vaccination to do their own research.

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