Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease official, raised concerns Friday regarding the safety of COVID-19 vaccines under development by China and Russia.
Several Chinese companies are at the forefront of the global vaccine race, while Russia has said it hopes to be the first in the world to produce a vaccine for the public, with a target date of September.
But the medicines will likely face heightened scrutiny given that the regulatory systems in both countries are far more opaque than they are in the West.
Fauci, who was asked during a Congressional hearing whether the US could make use of Chinese or Russian vaccines if they arrived first, indicated that was unlikely.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing the vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone,” he said.
He added: “Claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing, I think, is problematic, at best.
“We are going very quickly. I do not believe that there will be vaccines, so far ahead of us, that we will have to depend on other countries to get us vaccines.”
Last month, Chinese media announced a coronavirus vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics was being used to immunize the Chinese military — making it the first approved for people, albeit in a limited population.
Many scientists however raised ethical concerns because the vaccine has not yet begun its final stages of testing.
– ‘Sputnik moment’? –
Two other Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm, have launched final phase three trials in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates, respectively.
China, where the virus originated, has largely brought its outbreak under control and has therefore had to turn to other countries to test its vaccines.
The trials in Brazil and the UAE will be watched particularly closely, given China’s history of vaccine and other health scandals.
In 2018, more than 200,000 children were administered a defective vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (DPT) that caused paralysis in a few cases.
Russia, which was once a global vaccine leader during Soviet times, aims to bring two to market by September and October, respectively.
The first is being developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya institute and the defense ministry, and the second by the Vektor state laboratory near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
Russia has released no scientific data proving the vaccines’ safety or efficacy.
Nevertheless, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund which is financing the Gamaleya trials, told CNN: “It’s a Sputnik moment.”
Sputnik was the world’s first satellite launched by Russia in 1957.
Three Western coronavirus vaccines are in final phase three trials.
One is produced by US biotech firm Moderna and the National Institutes for Health; one by the University of Oxford and Britain’s AstraZeneca; and the last by Germany’s BioNTech with US pharmaceutical Pfizer.
China and Russia both stand accused of attempting to steal Western coronavirus research — charges they deny.
© 2020 AFP
Trump’s executive orders are confusing and unconstitutional — and likely to hurt his own voters. He doesn’t care.
Trump administration says US would share COVID vaccine with world after America’s needs are met
On Monday, Fox News reported that Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is offering to share any potential COVID-19 vaccine with other countries, after it stabilizes public health in the United States.
"The U.S. will share any coronavirus vaccine it develops with the globe after American needs are met, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday during a visit to Taiwan," reported Evie Fordham.
"Our first priority of course is to develop and produce enough quantity of safe and effective FDA-approved vaccines and therapeutics for use in the United States," said Azar. "But we anticipate having capacity that, once those needs are satisfied, those products would be available in the world community according to fair and equitable distributions that we would consult in the international community on ... After our departure from the WHO, we will work with others in the world community to find the appropriate vehicles for continuing to support, on a multilateral and bilateral basis, global public health on the order that the United States has done in the past."
Experts issue dire warning on Trump executive action on unemployment insurance
"Literally every new detail about these executive orders confirms that in addition to being wildly unconstitutional, they will do absolutely nothing to help anyone who's suffering."
On top of serious questions about the directive's legality and workability, experts are warning that President Donald Trump's executive action to extend the federal boost to unemployment benefits at $400-per-week—using $44 billion in funds meant for disaster relief—leaves out the poorest Americans by design.