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Hurdles Remain for SARS Vaccine: WHO

The Beijing office of the World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed China's achievements in developing a SARS vaccine, but cautioned many hurdles remain before a safe and effective vaccine could be produced.


"It is good news that advances are being made in China's development of a SARS vaccine," said Dr. Julie Hall, the leader of the SARS Response Team for the WHO in Beijing.


"China's announcement apparently puts it ahead of what other laboratories in other countries are announcing to the public," she said.


China announced Monday all the 55 vaccines for testing had met the requirements for testing on humans and were waiting for the authorization of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) to start clinical testing, possibly before the end of December.


The pre-clinical tests of the vaccine on monkeys had shown no serious side effects.


But Hall cautioned "the testing process is long and there are many hurdles before a vaccine can be considered safe and effective".


"And a vaccine is only one element in bringing SARS under control. We still need the fundamentals like good disease reporting and surveillance system."


Despite the world's race to develop a vaccine for the flu-like respiratory disease, the WHO still sees a safe and effective vaccine in one to two years, she said, urging scientists in various countries to share their information and research results.


The WHO has increased the size of its SARS Response Team in China to about 12 and its international teams have been bringing expertise from around the world to offer guidance to China's SARS professionals, she added.


China has produced about 1,400 shots of the vaccine, and another 20,000 will be packaged and inspected by quality control experts.


Yin Hongzhang, head of SFDA's biological product section, said Monday that his administration had decided to speed up the vaccine testing and was expected to approve its clinical trials by the end of this year.


The deadly disease, after its outbreak in China's southern province of Guangdong, quickly spread to more than 30 countries, killing more than 800 people out of some 8,000 infections before subsiding in July. Most of the victims were in China and Hong Kong.


(Xinhua News Agency November 27, 2003)


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