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First Volunteers Receive Test Bird Flu Vaccine

Six volunteers received an experimental avian influenza vaccine in the China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing on Wednesday, the first batch to do so.

The vaccine, an inactivated sample of the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu, was jointly developed by the Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Co and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC).

The volunteers are the first of 120 selected for the study, which aims to test the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and reported no untoward reactions within half an hour of inoculation.

The trial will last nine months, but preliminary conclusions are expected in around three months.

The volunteers were chosen from healthy people from Beijing aged between 18 and 60.

Sinovac, which developed the world's first SARS vaccine, had its pre-clinical trials endorsed by a Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) expert group on October 14 and applied to the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) for human test on October 21, which was approved the next day.

The company began to develop a human bird flu vaccine in early 2004, and the SFDA said it had fast-tracked examination procedures for it.

Currently, seven other drug firms in the world, including in the US, EU and Japan, are also developing vaccines of this kind.

Also on Wednesday, Li Changyou, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture's Veterinary Bureau, said 5 billion poultry have been immunized since October. The ministry announced on November 15 that it intended to vaccinate China's entire poultry population of 14 billion.

(Xinhua News Agency December 22, 2005)

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