The issue of public vaccination was to balance “risks and benefits,” he added, pointing to factors such as costs and potential side effects. There is currently no need for mass vaccination at this stage, although that could change if another major outbreak occurs, Gao said.
The policy sets China apart from many Western governments, notably Australia, which have outlined plans to introduce mass public vaccination campaigns.
Virus numbers reported from China have remained low since the spring. There have been some flare-ups ̵
Gao cited these brief outbreaks as evidence of China’s effective containment measures. “The facts have shown that we have several magical weapons to respond to the outbreak,” he said, according to China News Service.
Any potential vaccine would instead be a priority for those on the front lines, he added: health care workers, Chinese citizens working overseas in virus hostpots, and people working in dense, high-risk environments such as restaurants, schools or cleaning services.
CNN contacted the NHC for further comment.
Global race for a vaccine
China is the largest vaccine producer and consumer in the world and can supply more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine per year from 40 manufacturers across the country, according to the China Human Vaccine Industry Report 2018-2022.
Of the more than 30 vaccines currently in human trials globally, nine are from China, most from anywhere. And four of the nine late-stage candidate vaccines were developed by Chinese companies.
Other countries could follow suit; India’s health minister said Sunday that the government is considering granting emergency clearance to Covid-19 vaccine candidates ahead of the completion of phase 3 trials.
Experts have already said vaccination is critical for countries like China, where the percentage of infected people within the population is relatively low due to rigorous containment measures.
But Gao warned Saturday that vaccine development is still a work in progress, with risks of few side effects.
“Since a Covid-19 vaccine has never been developed before, which makes this case the first ever in science, it is possible that it could induce ADE effects (antibody-dependent enhancement) like any other novelty we will have to face”, he said, according to Global Times.
ADE is when specific antibodies help a virus enter cells and replicate – basically when a treatment makes the disease worse.
“Scientific research is a very rigorous process, we have to give scientists a little more time,” he added.