Dr Fauci urges caution on China and Russia virus vaccines

WASHINGTON • Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’ top infectious disease official, raised concerns last 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.

Dr 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 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 Inc was being used to immunise the Chinese military — making it the first approved for people.

Two other Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech Ltd and Sinopharm Group (Holding) Co Ltd, have launched final phase three trials in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) respectively.

The trials in Brazil and the UAE will be watched particularly closely. In 2018, more than 200,000 children were administered a defective vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough that caused paralysis in a few cases.

The first is being developed by the Moscow-based Gamaleya institute and the Defence Ministry, and the second by the Vektor state laboratory near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. — AFP