The mass-production of coronavirus vaccines could begin in China as early as March next year, according to officials.

Workers in Ningbo in eastern China have begun building a dedicated, 550million yuan (£62million) manufacturing base for making inoculations against COVID-19.

China’s disease-control officials have claimed that the first COVID-19 vaccine could be ready in the country this autumn. 

A handout from the government of Ningbo shows the design of the manufacturing base which will produce vaccines against coronavirus and rabies. The COVID-19 plant will cost £62million

A handout from the government of Ningbo shows the design of the manufacturing base which will produce vaccines against coronavirus and rabies. The COVID-19 plant will cost £62million

A handout from the government of Ningbo shows the design of the manufacturing base which will produce vaccines against coronavirus and rabies. The COVID-19 plant will cost £62million

The ground-breaking ceremony of the coronavirus plant took place on Saturday. Ningbo authorities expected the production lines to be put into use as early as next March

The ground-breaking ceremony of the coronavirus plant took place on Saturday. Ningbo authorities expected the production lines to be put into use as early as next March

The ground-breaking ceremony of the coronavirus plant took place on Saturday. Ningbo authorities expected the production lines to be put into use as early as next March

Beijing is carrying out clinical trials for at least five coronavirus immunisation candidates, three of which had entered their second round of clinical research by June 19, according to a government notice

President Xi in May pledged to make the country’s coronavirus vaccines ‘a global public good’ as he sought to defuse global criticism over Beijing’s handling of the pandemic.

The new COVID-19 vaccine factory is situated in a free-trade zone in the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang province. It is run by Beijing-based vaccine group AIM.

The ground-breaking ceremony took place on Saturday. Ningbo authorities expected the production lines to be put into use as early as next March, said a social media post from the local government. 

The plant will specialise in producing inactivated coronavirus vaccines. Such immunisation products use the killed version of the germ that causes the disease to stimulate human bodies to create antibodies.

The plant is part of a larger vaccine manufacturing base, which boasts an investment of 2.5billion yuan (£283million) in total. It is also set to produce rabies and genetic vaccines and will be constructed in three phases.

The first phase includes the coronavirus vaccine plant as well as an £85million factory for rabies vaccines.

China’s top coronavirus expert, Dr Zhong Nanshan, claimed last month that the country’s first COVID-19 vaccines could be ready to use as early as autumn.

The 83-year-old leading epidemiologist said that some vaccines developed by Chinese scientists could be ready for ’emergency use’ no later than the end of this year.

He said: ‘Some of them could be used for emergency maybe by the end of this year. We believe in the autumn or winter this year if they are needed for an emergency.’

Dr Gao Fu, director-general of China’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, previously predicted that China could have a successful vaccine candidate for COVID-19 by September.

The health chief added that the vaccine would be used for emergencies, such as a new wave of the virus outbreak.

Dr Gao told state broadcaster CGTN in an interview in April: ‘To develop a vaccine or specific drug, it always takes time.

‘Because the vaccine will be used on healthy people, you wanna make sure the vaccine you’re developing is safe and efficient.’  

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