CNBG chairman says 350,000 have used its experimental coronavirus vaccines

FILE PHOTO: A small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine" sticker is held near a medical syringe in front of displayed "Coronavirus COVID-19" words in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Around 350,000 people have taken experimental coronavirus vaccines developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), its chairman said on Friday, as part of the country’s emergency inoculation programme.

China has been actively offering vaccines that are still undergoing late-stage trials to people facing high infection risk and considering expanding the programme to prepare against a potential resurgence, raising safety concerns from experts.

At least three vaccine candidates including two developed by CNBG, a unit of state-owned China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), are offered in the emergency use programme.

So far, none of those who have taken the CNBG vaccines through the emergency use program or clinical trials have shown antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) effect, an adverse reaction where antibodies against the virus worsens the infection, CNBG Chairman Yang Xiaoming said.

He said further monitoring was needed.

“Not every one of the 1.4 billion people [in China] needs vaccination,” Yang told a forum sponsored by China’s science and technology ministry, saying that inoculating key groups of people could be sufficient to prevent outbreaks.

The company’s two coronavirus vaccine factories are expected to be able to produce a combined 300 million doses of vaccines in a year, and CNBG plans to expand its annual capacity to 600-800 million doses, Yang said.

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe; editing by Jason Neely