The Lancet, a world leading medical journal, on May 22 published the latest research results of a team led by Chen Wei, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a researcher at the Institute of Military Medicine under the Academy of Military Sciences, saying China’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, the first such vaccine to undergo phase 1 clinical trial, has been found to be well-tolerated and able to generate an immune response against the virus in humans at 28 days post-vaccination.
Chen and her team began COVID-19 vaccine research immediately after China shared the genetic sequence of the virus to the World Health Organization. She said the phase 1 clinical trial “demonstrated that a single dose of the new adenovirus type 5 vectored COVID-19 (Ad5-nCoV) vaccine produces virus-specific antibodies and T cells in 14 days, making it a potential candidate for further investigation,” calling the achievement an important milestone.
The new progress, the first COVID-19 vaccine human trial in the world, is exciting although another six months are still needed to further test whether the immune response it elicits effectively protects humans from the virus.
The development of an effective vaccine is seen as a long-term solution to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, there are more than 100 candidate COVID-19 vaccines in development worldwide.
Chen is also a member of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). What she proposed to the ongoing annual session of the political advisory body this year in Beijing is also about the pandemic – to build a national biosafety science and industry innovation center.
“Decades of research, especially the frontline experience I gained in Wuhan, drove me to make concrete innovations in biosafety, something that can be popularized quickly to benefit the people,” she said.
Chen is not fighting alone. Zhao Chenxin, deputy secretary general of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s top economic planner, also announced on a May 24 press conference that China has already been improving the investment structure of the central budget, focusing on five major tasks such as enhancing the testing capability for major infectious diseases and building emergency response capacity, to better protect people’s lives and health, as well as the security of the country.
The NDRC will move faster to upgrade facilities and equipment of disease prevention and control institutions, and ensure that every provincial-level region in China will have a biosafety level-3 (P3) laboratory and every prefecture-level city will have a P2 lab, Zhao noted, adding that the move will significantly improve the country’s rapid testing and response capabilities for major epidemics.
According to the official, the five major tasks also include stockpiling emergency supplies which are used to meet the demand of local hospitals at ordinary times and to be allocated by the central government when emergency happens.
The NDRC also stressed that emergency response should be taken into full consideration in the construction of new major venues or other public facilities, so that these buildings can be quickly shifted into shelters for patients with mild symptoms in sudden outbreaks of epidemics.