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What China’s Speedy COVID Vaccine Deployment Means for the Pandemic

In the race for a coronavirus vaccine, China is making bold promises. A Chinese health official has publicly pledged that an effective coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of the year. The country has also committed to sharing its vaccines with more than a dozen nations, particularly low-income countries that it has close ties with. But even if a vaccine is ready soon, some scientists question whether the country will be able to produce enough doses to meet its international commitments, and if deals with individual countries are the best way to ensure equitable vaccine distribution.

Wu Guizhen, the chief biosafety expert at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, told Chinese state media last month that two vaccines developed by Shanghai pharmaceutical group Sinopharm will be available in November or December. The vaccines are being tested in countries including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Peru and Argentina.

On 9 October, China also announced that it had joined COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX), the collaborative effort by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, together with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO, which is aiming to provide 2 billion doses of vaccine to the most vulnerable people and to health-care workers, especially in poor countries. Some 80 wealthy ‘self-funding’ countries have committed to support the initiative, with the notable exception of the United States. It is not clear yet whether China will commit money or vaccines, and how much.

Chinese vaccine makers have developed four of the roughly dozen leading candidate vaccines that are in the final stages of testing worldwide. No vaccine has yet completed the crucial phase III trials that are needed to firmly establish safety and efficacy. But that hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands of people in China and abroad being injected with one of the four Chinese vaccine candidates under policies known as emergency-use authorization. The vaccines include those developed by Sinopharm, plus a jab developed by Beijing-based vaccine maker Sinovac and another by CanSino Biologics in Tianjin.

Scientists say the country’s drug regulator, which is part of the Ministry of Health, needs to wait for robust trial data that shows the vaccines are safe and effective before granting vaccines full approval.

In an e-mail to Nature, Wu said that the health ministry will await the results of large trials before approving them for sale. “Until then, there are still uncertainties,” she says.

Outside China, expectations are high that a successful Chinese vaccine will soon be available. Sinopharm’s large-scale trials in Argentina, which started last month, have received widespread media coverage, says Eduardo Spitzer, the scientific director of Laboratorio Elea Phoenix in Buenos Aires, which is organizing the trial. “We are working as fast as possible, but without losing quality in the data obtained from the trials.”

Demand and supplies

China’s leader Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly in May that its vaccines would be a “global public good”, and the list of countries with which China has promised to

What California’s new equity rule means for economic reopening

OAKLAND, Calif. — California has launched the nation’s first mandate on reopening that requires local officials to control the coronavirus in their most impoverished communities before easing business restrictions across their entire county.



a group of people sitting at a table in front of a building: Patrons eat at table set up on a sidewalk in Burbank, Calif.


© AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
Patrons eat at table set up on a sidewalk in Burbank, Calif.

The approach is aimed at tackling a persistent inequity in California, where low-income people of color have disproportionately struggled to avoid contracting the disease.

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“If you believe in growth and you don’t believe in inclusion, then we’re going to leave a lot of people behind,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week. “And one of the things we value as a state is inclusion, and we believe that we’re all better off when we’re all better off.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has laid stark the health disparities that have long existed, with poor, Black, Latino, Pacific Islander and Native communities being hardest hit by the pandemic. Latinos, for example, make up about 40 percent of the state’s population, but account for more than 60 percent of coronavirus cases and half the deaths.

California’s “equity metric” attempts to tackle that disparity by requiring that the 35 largest counties invest more in testing and ensure that positive rates of infection in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods come close to meeting the county’s overall positivity rate. The rule ensures that restaurants in Beverly Hills can’t resume indoor dining unless the most impoverished census tracts also show low rates of infection.

The change adds a third metric to the state’s newest reopening structure, which Newsom unveiled in late August and billed as an improvement to the previous approach that has been blamed for the state’s summer infection surge. Before now, the new structure has relied only on a county’s overall positivity mark and the rate of new infections.

The equity move could prompt counties to expand testing in low-income neighborhoods and provide tests to anyone who fears they have been exposed, not just those who show symptoms. That may allow such communities to more quickly isolate patients, especially those who are asymptomatic.

The metric uses the California Healthy Places Index to identify the lowest, most disadvantaged quartile in the larger counties’ census tracts. The smallest 23 counties are exempt — with populations of 106,000 or below — but still have to provide the state with an equity plan for their most vulnerable populations.

Orange County Supervisor Don Wagner, a former Republican state lawmaker who has been critical of Newsom’s restrictions, called the new measure “virtue signaling” on the part of the Democratic governor. He also described it as another example of “moving the goal posts,” potentially delaying further business reopenings.

“Even if you meet others but don’t meet the equity one, you’re stuck,” Wagner said.

Tuesday marked the first state update to county tiers since the equity metric was quietly rolled out last week. There remained plenty of confusion and mystery around how it might impact county status, but its debut mostly had no effect

Trump claims his Covid treatment means a cure is imminent

“Hi, perhaps you recognize me — it’s your favorite president,” Trump said, one day after being discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was treated for Covid-19.

“I wasn’t feeling so hot and within a short period of time they gave me Regeneron,” he said, referring to drug company that makes the experimental antibody cocktail he received. “It was unbelievable. I felt good immediately. I felt as good three days ago as I do now.”

Trump later said of the drug, “I call that a cure,” and suggested that his infection was “a blessing from god” that revealed the drug’s promise. “I think if I didn’t catch [the virus] we’d be looking at that like a bunch of other drugs.

The president for months has also been promising that a coronavirus vaccine is imminent, often pledging to make it available by Election Day. Late-stage clinical trials are underway, but no vaccine maker has yet sought emergency authorization or approval from the Food and Drug Administration — and now Trump is focused on the experimental antibody drugs as cures.

He added that his administration would authorize emergency use of Regeneron’s treatment, and a similar antibody drug from Eli Lilly, and would soon make them available to the public. Lilly has said that it is seeking emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, while Regeneron has revealed that it’s in talks with the agency.

“If you’re in the hospital and feeling really bad, I think we’re going to work it so that you get them and you’re going to get them free,” Trump said, adding that the government had “hundreds of thousands of doses that were nearly available.”

The two antibody treatments are now being tested in clinical trials, and scientists have greeted the limited early data released as promising. But the drugs are far from a slam-dunk. Regeneron and Lilly have said that their antibodies help Covid-19 patients clear the coronavirus from their bodies, and appear to speed recovery, but it is not clear whether the drugs reduce the risk of death. Trump has also taken several other medications, including a steroid and the antiviral drug remdesivir.

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