China to strengthen global cooperation in Covid-19 vaccine trials

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BEIJING: China will strengthen international cooperation in future Covid-19 clinical vaccine trials, building on earlier collaboration in vaccine development, the science and technology minister said yesterday.

China is expending great efforts in the global scramble to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus epidemic, with Chinese researchers conducting five separate clinical trials on humans, or half of all such trials globally, according to data compiled by the World Health Organisation.

President Xi Jinping vowed last month at the World Health Assembly that vaccines China develops will become a "global public good" once they are ready for use, and it will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

Developing "a vaccine is still the fundamental strategy in our effort to overcome the new coronavirus", Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang told a news conference in Beijing.

But vaccine development is very difficult and takes time, he said, when asked how China would initially prioritise shots by country when a vaccine is found.

"The rigour of vaccine development has been compared by some scientists to a dance involving precise steps and rehearsals," he said.

In a separate development, Republican senator Rick Scott told the BBC yesterday the US has evidence China is trying to slow down or sabotage the development of a vaccine by Western countries.

"We have got to get this vaccine done. Unfortunately we have evidence that communist China is trying to sabotage us or slow it down," he said during an interview on BBC TV.

"China does not want us... to do it first, they have decided to be an adversary to Americans and I think to democracy around the world."

Asked what evidence the US had, Mr Scott declined to give details but said it had come through the intelligence community. - REUTERS