Chinese CDC chief Gao Fu says he has taken a dose of an experimental vaccine. Photo: AP
Chinese CDC chief Gao Fu says he has taken a dose of an experimental vaccine. Photo: AP

Coronavirus: China CDC chief becomes vaccine ‘mouse’ in shot in arm to research

  • Gao Fu says he had the injection to try to boost public confidence in the country’s ability to produce a vaccine
  • China and the United States need to work together to find an answer to Covid-19, he says
Topic |   Coronavirus pandemic
Chinese CDC chief Gao Fu says he has taken a dose of an experimental vaccine. Photo: AP
Chinese CDC chief Gao Fu says he has taken a dose of an experimental vaccine. Photo: AP
The head of China’s disease control centre has become a
coronavirus
vaccine guinea pig, taking a dose of an experimental inoculation to boost public confidence in domestic research.

George Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Friday that he decided to become an experimental “mouse in animal model” in response to unverified assertions and hesitancy about Covid-19 vaccines.

“For me, the injection of the vaccine is related to ‘infodemic’,” Gao told an online seminar hosted by Peking University and the private non-profit National Committee on United States-China Relations.

“There are a lot of debates or people claiming that the antibodies of the survivors … might not be able to protect [them from another infection]. Your vaccination may be a waste of efforts.

“But this is a new virus and we don’t know that.”

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He said he also wanted to boost confidence in
vaccine candidates
developed in China, where the pharmaceutical industry has been riddled with vaccine scandals.

“There is [doubt] that we can really produce a vaccine ourselves within such a short time. That’s why I put myself forward as a mouse in animal model … to say these words: I am confident. I am healthy. I am all right,” Gao said, without saying which vaccine candidate he took.

‘Robust immune responses’ found in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials point to 2021 release

06:17

‘Robust immune responses’ found in Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials point to 2021 release

Developers in China are pursuing four types of technologies – inactivated, virus-vectored, mRNA and recombinant protein – in the race for a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Gao and his colleagues in the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a potential recombinant protein vaccine that is in phase II of clinical trials.

The CDC chief is not the first Chinese scientist to take a dose of an experimental vaccine.

Major General Chen Wei
from the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, whose team developed a Covid-19 vaccine with Tianjin-based firm CanSino Biologics, injected herself with their candidate before doses were given to phase I volunteers.

And Liu Jingzhen, Communist Party secretary of state-owned Sinopharm Group, was one of 180 senior executives to get shots of one of two inactivated vaccines developed by the group’s subsidiaries.

The executives were given the injections before human trials to show they were safe and caused an immune response.

In all, roughly 1,000 employees of the group have taken the experimental vaccines, which are in phase III human trials.

Scientists at Oxford University share promising news on coronavirus vaccine trials

01:55

Scientists at Oxford University share promising news on coronavirus vaccine trials

During the seminar, Gao also said that scientists from China and the United State should team up to fight Covid-19.

“If we don’t work together the virus will work together, and probably in future we might have another Covid-20 … We have to keep up dialogue to keep the openness, transparency and cooperation,” he said.

Thirteen companies in China are building facilities to ramp up vaccine production and Sinopharm’s inactivated vaccines are expected to be ready for the market by the end of this year or early next year.

Gao said countries needed to work together to find ways to distribute the vaccines, which China deemed a public good.

“We [have] got to share this public product. We need to find a way ... to share the vaccine in some areas, like low and middle-income countries where they need vaccines but can’t afford [them],” he said.

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Director of China CDC ‘a vaccine mouse’