China prepares large-scale rollout of coronavirus vaccines

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People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walk by a moral depicting China's skyscrapers along a street in Beijing, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. Provincial governments across China are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country's 1.4 billion people. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

TAIPEI – Provincial governments across China are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country's 1.4 billion people.

Developers are speeding up final testing, the Chinese foreign minister said during a U.N. meeting last week, as Britain approved emergency use of Pfizer Inc.'s vaccine candidate and providers scrambled to set up distribution.

Even without final approval, more than 1 million health care workers and others in China who are deemed at high risk of infection have received experimental vaccines under emergency use permission. Developers have yet to disclose how effective their vaccines are and possible side effects.

China's fledgling pharmaceutical industry has at least five vaccines from four producers being tested in more than a dozen countries including Russia, Egypt and Mexico. Health experts say even if they are successful, the certification process for the United States, Europe, Japan and other developed countries might be too complex for them to be used there. However, China said it will ensure the products are affordable for developing countries and has been actively pursuing deals across the world.

On Sunday, 1.2 million doses of the Chinese company Sinovac's vaccine arrived in Indonesia, the government said.

"We are very grateful, thank God, the vaccine is now available so that we can immediately curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease,” President Joko Widodo said.

Within China, so far only one developer, China National Pharmaceutical Group, known as Sinopharm, said in November it applied for final market approval for use of its vaccine. Others have been approved for emergency use on people deemed at high risk of infection.

“We must be prepared for large-scale production,” Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said during a visit Wednesday to developers, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.