China begins large scale vaccination to priority groups

Covid-19 vaccine
Chinese vaccine 'successful in mid-stage trials'. | Photo: Getty Images

China – China has begun to implement its plan to vaccinate priority groups against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) within this late winter-early spring timeframe.

Director of the Health Commission of Guangdong Province Duan Yufei said that the southern province of Guangdong had vaccinated 180,000 people in priority groups as of December 22, 2020 and that so far there had been no adverse events. Emergency vaccination of priority groups was also kicked off on December 24, 2020 in Wuhan, the city in Hubei Province in Central China that first reported the disease.

Vaccines will be given first to priority groups, which include those handling imported cold chain products and people working in highly exposed sectors such as port inspection and quarantine, aviation, public transport, fresh markets, medical treatment, and disease control.

Cui Gang, an official with the disease control department of the National Health Commission (NHC) at a press conference on December 19, 2020

In addition to this, Cui said that the vaccination program will also cover those who plan to work or study in countries and regions with a medium or high risk of exposure to the virus. He also added that with more vaccines ready to enter the market and the expansion of production capacity, inoculation of a wider population will be carried out and that this will gradually forge a barrier of immunity among the public to stop the spread of COVID-19 in China.

After Chinese scientists shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus with the world in January 2020, scientists in many countries joined the race to develop vaccines against the virus as safe and effective vaccines are regarded as the best weapon to win the battle against the pandemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of December 16, 2020, 222 COVID-19 candidate vaccines were being developed worldwide, with 56 of them under clinical trials.

China has been a frontrunner in vaccine research and development since the very beginning. In March 2020, the adenovirus vector vaccine developed by a team led by Chen Wei, a biomedical expert at the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, became the first vaccine to enter phase-one clinical trial in China. In April 2020, a phase-two clinical trial of the vaccine started in Wuhan, making it the first COVID-19 candidate vaccine worldwide to have entered the second stage of clinical trials, according to the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Many other countries have also started large-scale vaccination against COVID-19. The UK kicked off its large-scale inoculation on December 8, 2020. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a vaccine for emergency use within the U.S. on December 10, and large-scale vaccination in the country was started on December 14, with the first person vaccinated being a nurse working in an intensive care unit.

Both the UK and U.S. use the mRNA vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical cooperation Pfizer in partnership with German BioNTech. The mRNA vaccine is a new type of vaccine which instructs the cells to produce a protein, or even just a fragment that triggers an immune response inside the body. The vaccine became the first worldwide to reveal its results of three clinical trial stages, with an efficacy rate of 95 percent. UK has also given approval for the Moderna Vaccine to be administered.