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China’s ‘insect’ vaccine for COVID-19 approved for human testing

Published on 24/08/20 at 12:09pm
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody R. Miller

China is set to move ahead with human testing of a potential coronavirus vaccine that has been created using insect cells.

The National Medical Products Administration has granted approval to the West China Hospital of Sichuan University in Chengdu to begin a clinical trial. It is hoped that using insect cells to grow proteins for the vaccine could speed up large-scale production.

It has already been tested on monkeys and was shown to prevent infection of the disease with no obvious side effects.

The news comes after China said that companies and organisations must prove to regulators that vaccines have 50% efficacy. The Chinese Centre for Drug Evaluation also said that vaccines must be free of the risk of antibody-dependent enhancement due to the concern that infections may be worsened after inoculation, as antibodies that are generated by the vaccine will bind to the COVID-19 virus without neutralising it and could actually enhance its ability to enter cells. 

China also recently announced that they have been testing a potential coronavirus vaccine in a select group of workers since July. These were primarily border officials and health workers. Although there is speculation that Russia may also be testing vaccines outside of clinical trials, this is the first direct confirmation of it by any country.

The Head of the National Health Commission’s Science and Technology Centre, Zheng Zhongwei, said: “We’ve drawn up a series of plan packages, including medical consent forms, side effect monitoring plans, rescuing plans, compensation plans, to make sure the emergency use is well regulated and monitored.”

Conor Kavanagh

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