From our correspondent
BEIJING – L ’Chinese People’s Liberation Army would be proud to free the world from the nightmare of COVID-19. The only definitive exit strategy from the new coronavirus that has raged since January seems to be the vaccine. And Beijing announces that its armed forces will be there first in the world to use a preparation that should immunize against viral aggression.
The vaccine, identified as Ad5-nCoV, was developed by a team from the Military Academy of Medical Sciences led by Army General Chen Wei and the Tianjin Civil Company CanSino Biologics. The first results are promising, the product candidate for mass use has already passed the first two test phases, which first indicated its safety (i.e. it would have no harmful side effects for the human body) and then the answer relatively high immune. In Phase 1 the vaccine was tested on a very small number of volunteers to study its tolerability. In Phase 2, 500 volunteers were selected for efficacy clinical trials. In Phase 3 the tests must be extended to a large number of subjects. But Beijing has not yet authorized use on civilians, while the supreme command has approved the testing on the military for a year. The Chinese Army has at least one million men and women in arms, who have sworn allegiance to the Republic and carry out orders for the supreme good of the nation, the Communist Party and the Chinese people. Volunteers will not fail.
However, CanSino has specified that the success of the experimentation cannot be guaranteed. Why? Phase three is the one in which it really occurs if the preparation works and proves well tolerated with tests on a large number of people. It serves to confirm that the product can actually protect the recipient from the disease. (The vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in trial phase 3; three other Chinese vaccine candidates have completed the first two trial stages.)
No vaccine has yet been approved for commercial use against Covid-19: today the head of the emergency programs of the Health Organization, Mike Ryan, said that there is enormous work to be done to get a vaccine, but there are no guarantees of success.
The Ad5-nCoV based on an Ebola vaccine that was developed by the team of researchers led by General Chen but has not gone into massive production.
In China they started working on the vaccine as early as February, while Wuhan and the province of Hubei were in absolute quarantine: 60 million inhabitants closed in the house. Phase 1 of the experimentation started in March, with a first contingent of 108 healthy volunteers who had mild or more massive doses inoculated; in April, a second contingent of 500, with encouraging results collected until 11 June. Now entire army departments will line up for inoculation.
Xiang Yafei, a thirty-year-old from Wuhan, has agreed to join the first platoon of volunteers. I was afraid of course. But the Army-led program, I have military relatives and this has encouraged me, has given me confidence and pushed me to move forward. They selected us in 108, they numbered us: I had the 006, the sixth to be taken. Chen Wei, the commander of the army’s scientific department, also participated in the experiment as 001, Xiang told the Beijing press. Chen already has a myth in Beijing: she is said to have injected the anti-Coronavirus dose alone. Maybe a legend, but the uniformed doctor esteemed by the scientific community.
According to the World Health Organization, clinical trials for 17 candidate vaccines are underway in various countries, seven in China. Let’s expect doubts and controversies about the safety of the Chinese product, its effectiveness, the way it is tested. And of course, in the end, on the number of doses that will be available for seven billion men, women and children worldwide.
Xi Jinping has promised that a made in China vaccine would be considered a common good of humanity.