China could have Covid-19 vaccine ‘ready for public use early next year’


China may have a vaccine against the deadly Covid-19 for emergency use by September and for the general public early next year, a top Chinese public health expert has said.

This is the first time a Chinese official has put an estimate on the timescale for development of a coronavirus vaccine, believed to be the key to containing the global pandemic. The US Food and Drug Administration believes a vaccine in the United States could be at least a year away, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that it could take 12 to 18 months.

Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday told China Global Television Network, the overseas arm of the state broadcaster, that vaccines currently at phase two or three of clinical trials could be available by the time of a potential second wave of outbreaks. Three Chinese vaccines have completed the first phase of trials.

“We are in the frontline for the vaccine development, and we may have a vaccine ready for emergency use by September,” Gao said. “These newly developed vaccines, which are still under phase two or phase three clinical trials, could be used for some special groups of people, for example health care workers.”

Gao added that “we may have a vaccine for the healthy population early next year”, but stressed that its feasibility would depend on “progress of our development”.