One of China’s leading vaccine creators is working on a proposal to inoculate students going overseas with Covid-19 shots that have yet to be accepted by law, according to people who are familiar with the matter, as the country is breaking technical limits in the race for viable immunization.
China National Biotec Group Co., or CNBG, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm Group Co., is in talks with the Chinese government about providing students overseas the chance to review their experimental vaccines, said the people who requested not to be named as not able to speak publicly. Several government departments are still working on the program, and no definitive decision has been reached, the people added.
The two shots being produced by CNBG—which are still in the final third step of testing—have been approved for emergency use in China and have already been provided to hundreds of thousands of people there, including medical personnel and staff of state-owned firms employed in high-risk countries.
Students would mark an unprecedented increase in the use of vaccines that have not undergone full clinical testing, although the Chinese regulator could determine that the community could be susceptible to emergency use.
“This will indeed stretch the license given for emergency use beyond their purpose,” said Nigel McMillan, director of the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Program at the Menzies Health Institute Queensland at Griffith University.
“While it is clear that it is really important for the families and students concerned, studying abroad is not an emergency – no life is at stake here.”
CNBG did not respond to numerous calls and text messages requesting responses, nor did China’s Ministry of Education respond to phone calls.
Students’ fears over leaving China, where the pathogen has almost been eradicated by aggressive control policies, sparked discussions in foreign countries where coronavirus tends to spread rapidly, the people said. Infections in the U.S. and Europe are recurring, although outbreaks in South America and India have no evidence of regulation.
CNBG tends to be seeking to gauge the general public’s interest in its vaccine candidates, through a page on its website that encourages people to register for a vaccination. They asked for personal information and what city they chose to get the injection. More than 154,000 people had enrolled in China as of Tuesday morning, and a note at the end of the registration form suggested that students going abroad could get the vaccinations free of charge. Later that day, the weblink appeared to stop working.
The registration exercise is for preparation purposes and no real vaccines have yet been administered to anybody who has signed up, the people added.