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Covid-19 Vaccine

China’s army gives limited approval to potential Covid-19 vaccine

A Chinese company may be the first to have developed a  vaccine against the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Chinese company may be the first to have developed a vaccine against the COVID-19 pandemic. © Internet

CanSino Biologics, a Chinese laboratory based in Shanghai, has been granted permission for its coronavirus vaccine to be used by the country’s military after clinical trials proved hopeful. If successful, this would be the first vaccine to be available in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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China's military has approved a coronavirus vaccine for use within its ranks. The formula was developed by a combined military research unit and the biotech firm, the company said Monday.

Organisations around the world are racing to find ways to treat and prevent the deadly pathogen, which first emerged late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan and has since killed over half a million people worldwide.

More than half of the 17 candidate vaccines identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as being at the clinical evaluation stage involve Chinese companies or institutes.

Hong Kong-listed CanSino Biologics said in a filing to the stock exchange that data from clinical trials showed the Chinese military vaccine had a "good safety profile" and potential to prevent disease caused by the coronavirus.

Military medical sciences

CanSino said on Monday that China's Central Military Commission had approved the use of the vaccine on 25 June, for one year.

The vaccine was jointly developed by CanSino and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, part of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences. Trials started on 17 March.

The company says that the formula; known as Ad5-nCoV, is currently limited to use by military personnel, and cannot be offered to a broader population without the approval of the Logistics Support Department, the division of the Central Military Commission which approved the military use of the vaccine.

The vaccine uses an adenovirus, which normally causes the common cold, as a vector. To stop it replicating, the virus is made inactive by removing certain genes. In their place, a piece of DNA that codes for the coronavirus spike protein is inserted. Once injected, these viral antigens are expressed in human cells that trigger the body’s immune response.

Other companies, such as Jansen Pharmaceuticals, will start clinical trials based on adenovirus-based vaccines, but said they expect the first results only next year.  

Available to the world?

It was not clear how widely the potential vaccine will be used within China's enormous military establishment. During a meeting of the WHO on in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping had suggested that if China produced a dependable anti Covid-19 vaccine, Beijing would make it "available to the world".

But CanSino said that it cannot guarantee that the vaccine, which has undergone both phase one and two clinical trials in China, will ultimately be commercialised.

Another 131 candidate vaccines listed by the WHO are at the pre-clinical phase.

None has yet been approved for commercial use.

According to medical journal The Lancet there have already been more than 1,000 clinical trials on dozens of pharmaceutical treatments for the virus but no effective medical intervention has yet been found.

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