Hundreds of thousands of people in China have been given an emergency use coronavirus vaccine, raising serious welfare concerns among experts.
An emergency use vaccine means they have been given people to before final regulatory approval.
It is unclear how many people have been given the vaccine, but the state-owned Sinopharm subsidiary CNBG has given the vaccine to 350,000 people outside its clinical trials, which have about 40,000 people enrolled, a top CNBG executive said recently.
It has also provided tens of thousands of rounds of its CoronaVac for the Beijing city government.
Another candidate being jointly developed by the military and CanSino, a biopharmaceutical company, has been approved for emergency use in military personnel.
Now, large Chinese firms including telecom giant Huawei and broadcaster Phoenix TV has announced they are working with Sinopharm to get the vaccine for their employees.
Several people who say they work in “front-line” organizations have said on social media that their workplaces have offered vaccinations for about 1,000 yuan (£117).
In an established but limited practice, experimental medications have been approved historically for use when they are still in the third and last phase of human trials. Chinese companies have four vaccines in phase three – two from Sinopharm and one each from SinoVac and CanSino.
A popular writer and columnist who has been given the vaccine said he had no reaction after the first dose. But after the second dose, Kan Chai felt woozy, saying: “When I was driving on the road, I suddenly felt a bit dizzy, as if I was driving drunk.
“So I specially found a place to stop the car, rest a bit and then I felt better.”
Chinese companies earlier drew attention after giving the vaccine to their top executives and leading researchers before human trials to test their safety and efficacy had even begun.
In recent months, they have injected a far larger number under an emergency use designation approved in June, and that number appears poised to rise.
A health official said that China, which claims to have largely controlled the disease, needs to take steps to prevent it from coming back.
One outside expert has questioned the need for emergency use when the virus is no longer spreading in the country where it was first detected.
National health commission official Zheng Zhongwei said at a news conference that the Chinese government referenced the World Health Organisation’s emergency-use principles to create its own through a strict process.