China rapidly expands use of experimental coronavirus vaccines

  • The city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement Thursday.
  • It said high-risk groups, including people who are "responsible for the basic operations of the city" will receive priority,
  • China National Biotech Group, another Chinese vaccine company, is offering its vaccine free to students who study abroad in a strategy health experts say raises safety and ethical concerns.

China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing another free to students going abroad.

The city of Jiaxing, south of Shanghai, is offering a vaccine under development by Sinovac, it said in an announcement Thursday. It said high-risk groups, including people who are "responsible for the basic operations of the city" will receive priority, but that residents who have emergency needs can also sign up.

The vaccine is in the final stage of clinical testing, but has not yet been approved. The city government said it is being provided under an emergency authorization.

China National Biotech Group, another Chinese vaccine company, is offering its vaccine free to students who study abroad in a strategy health experts say raises safety and ethical concerns.

More than 168,000 people signed up to receive the vaccine via an online survey and more than 91,000 are being considered, CNBG said on its website. That page had been removed by Tuesday.

Chinese drug companies have five vaccines in final stages of testing but none is approved for public use. They are part of a global race to develop a vaccine that, if successful, offers the fledgling Chinese industry the potential for prestige and worldwide sales.

Top Chinese health officials have promised a vaccine for the general public before the end of this year.

CNBG's vaccine has already been given to medical workers and employees of Chinese companies being sent abroad under an emergency authorization for people in high-risk categories. It has given the vaccine to 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, a company executive said in September. The trials have about 40,000 people enrolled.

"Currently, it seems Chinese students going abroad have a strong desire to take the vaccine," a CNBG employee was quoted as saying by a state-owned newspaper, the Paper, based on the survey results in September.

Students in China who are due to start their semesters abroad say they want the vaccine because they are worried about getting sick.

"It's very dangerous over there, the town we study in, it's a red danger zone," said a student who goes to school in Poland and gave only her surname, Ouyang. She signed up for the CNBG vaccine in September but hasn't heard back yet. "We all really want this vaccine."

A student who is due to go to Britain said she signed up via the online link after classmates said they received the vaccine.

The student, who would give only her English name, Sally, said she started to hear in September that the vaccine was available to people such as her. She said other students said she might need to travel to Beijing, the national capital, or Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged in December, to receive the vaccine.

If the vaccine works, it might help protect students going to Europe or the United States, where the pandemic is still raging, medical experts said. But they said developers need to make clear it is unproven and keep track of what happens to people who receive it.

If the vaccine doesn't work, then "this is giving people a false sense of security," said Sridhar Venkatapuram, a specialist in bioethics at King's College London's Global Health Institute.

The ruling Communist Party declared the coronavirus under control in March but has warned that the risk of a new outbreak is high. Travelers and visitors to public buildings still are checked for signs of infection. Those arriving from abroad are required to be quarantined for two weeks. The country has reported 4,634 deaths and 85,622 confirmed cases.

This week, 10 million people were tested in the eastern port of Qingdao after 12 cases were found last weekend, the government said Friday. That ended a nearly two-month period with no local virus transmissions reported within China.

It was unclear whether Chinese students were being offered the CNBG vaccine under the same emergency authorization that residents of Jiaxing were.

The agency that oversees drug and vaccine approvals, the National Medical Products Administration, did not respond to questions sent by fax. CNBG did not respond to a request for comment.

The final stage of clinical trials, conducted on larger groups, is used to find any rare side effects and study the effectiveness of a treatment. The first and second stage trials are meant to determine whether a vaccine or treatment is safe.

"The manufacturer has an obligation to obtain follow-up information" from people who receive a vaccine under emergency use, K. Arnold Chan, a National Taiwan University expert on drug regulation, said in an email.

Failing to do that "is irresponsible and not compliant with international standards," he wrote.

More than 600,000 Chinese students studied abroad before the pandemic, according to Ministry of Education figures. They make up a large share of the foreign student body in the United States, Britain, Australia and some other countries.

Western universities are "not protecting their students," Venkatapuram said. "The company is basically offering its citizens protection going outside of China, which in essence is what any country would ideally be doing."

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Trump says he would raise offer coronavirus stimulus deal above $1.8T, claims China will pay the bill

Trump ‘absolutely’ considering raising stimulus offer above $1.8T

President Trump tells ‘Varney & Co.’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ‘holding up’ the next round of coronavirus stimulus aid.

President Trump said Thursday he would raise his offer for a coronavirus relief package above the White House's current $1.8 trillion proposal amid a months-long impasse with Democratic leaders over more funding.

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"I would," he told FOX Business' Stuart Varney when asked whether the White House would increase its offer. "Absolutely I would. I would say more. I would go higher. Go big or go home, I said it yesterday."

“Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want to give anything. She thinks it helps her with the election,” the president continued. “And I don’t think so. I think it hurts her with the election because everyone knows she’s holding it up. We’re not holding it up. She’s holding it up.”

The Trump administration's latest proposal — its largest yet – drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats last week, dimming the odds of another round of emergency aid before the Nov. 3 election. It was expected to include a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $1,000 for children; expanded unemployment benefits at $400 per week and additional funding for state and local governments.

In a weekly letter to Democratic colleagues, Pelosi said the administration’s proposal lacked a “strategic plan to crush the virus” and gave President Trump too much power in determining how the funds were spent.

"This proposal amounted to one step forward, two steps back," Pelosi said in the letter. She later identified a lack of funding for testing as one of the main sticking points in negotiations.

But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday during an interview with CNBC that the testing issue was "getting overblown." The administration agreed to allocate $178 billion overall for health and $75 billion for contact tracing and testing, he said.

“What we have been focused on is the language around testing,” he said. “When I speak to Pelosi today, I’m going to tell her that we’re not going to let the testing issue stand in the way. We’ll fundamentally agree with their testing language subject to some minor issues. This issue is being overblown.”

For months, Congress has struggled to reach an agreement on additional stimulus. Negotiations first collapsed in early August, prompting Trump to sign four executive measures intended to provide relief to families still reeling from the virus-induced crisis, including temporarily extending supplemental jobless aid at $300 a week.

But that aid is beginning to expire, and lifelines that propped up the economy in the early weeks of the pandemic — like the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, a one-time $1,200 stimulus check and sweetened unemployment benefits — lapsed weeks ago.

Although Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that another bill is necessary to aid the economy's recovery, they sharply disagree over the size and scope of it.

Economists have urged lawmakers to pass another round of emergency aid, or risk imperiling the nation's tepid turnaround from the virus-induced crisis. There are still 10 million more unemployed Americans than there were in February, before the economy shut down.

“Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste," Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week. "The recovery will be stronger and move faster if monetary policy and fiscal policy continue to work side by side to provide support to the economy until it is clearly out of the woods."

Any bill still needs to get through the Democratic-controlled House and the GOP-controlled Senate, where some Republicans have expressed concern about another massive spending initiative amid the nation's ballooning deficit, which is projected to hit a record-shattering $3.3 trillion this year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Biden on Trump saying he won't do a virtual debate: 'You never know what's going to come out of his mouth'

Trump says he will not participate in a virtual debate

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is shining a spotlight on President Trump’s unpredictable nature.

Speaking with reporters Thursday morning before boarding a flight to campaign in the battleground state of Arizona, the former vice president was asked about the president’s insistence minutes earlier that he wouldn’t take part in a virtual presidential debate with Biden next week.

“You never know what's going to come out of his mouth,” Biden said.


With Trump huddling in the White House after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last Friday and after being hospitalized for three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for coronavirus treatments, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced Thursday morning that the Oct. 15 scheduled second debate between the president and Biden would be held virtually, with both candidates taking part from separate remote locations.

The president quickly responded, telling Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo later Thursday morning that he would not take part in a virtual debate.

"The commission changed the debate style and that's not acceptable to us," Trump said on "Mornings with Maria."

"I'm not going to do a virtual debate," Trump added. "I’m not going to waste my time at a virtual debate."

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to members of the media before boarding his campaign plane at New Castle Airport in New Castle, Del., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020., en route to Arizona. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Biden, when asked about Trump’s refusal to take part in the debate, responded, “We don't know what the president is going to do, he changes his mind every second so for me to comment on that now would be irresponsible. I think that if — I'm going to follow the commission recommendations. If he goes off and he's going to have a rally, I'll — I don't know what I'll do.”

The second debate is scheduled to be a town hall-style format. The commission said Thursday morning that the moderator of the debate – C-SPAN’s Steve Scully – and the live audience would be at the debate hall in Miami, Fla., with Biden and Trump taking part remotely.

The first debate between Biden and Trump – which took place last week in Cleveland, Ohio, was plagued by incessant interruptions and insults. President Trump was the larger of the two culprits. According to a Fox News analysis, the president interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of "Fox News Sunday" a total of 145 times, with the former vice president interrupting Trump and Wallace 67 times.

Trump – on Thursday morning – once again claimed that "I beat him [Biden] in the first debate, I beat him easily."

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