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China Leads World in Vaccine Development

With a SARS vaccine already undergoing clinical trials, China has taken the lead in the global race to develop a remedy for the deadly illness.

Global scientists are competing to develop severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) vaccines and get them into the clinical trial stages, China's Ministry of Science and Technology said Monday.

At least 10 different types of SARS vaccines are under development, according to the ministry.

Four of them, developed by Canada and the United States, will go into clinical trials by the end of this year. Vaccines developed by France and Austria will likely go the same stage next year.

Preliminary clinical trials on a SARS vaccine developed by Chinese scientists are already underway. Giving China the lead in the race to develop and test a vaccine, the drug entered trials in January, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the achievements by scientists from different countries have led to a new hotbed of discussion and study of new infectious diseases.

Last week, Chinese scientists and officials from the ministry attended an international symposium on SARS vaccines organized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The symposium was attended by virology experts, doctors and drug company representatives from the European Union, the United States, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Thailand, Austria, France and China.

Monday, WHO officials released their evaluation on China's progress towards developing SARS vaccine, said the information department of the Ministry of Science and Technology.

China and the WHO will continue to work towards a worldwide standard for a SARS vaccine.

This will play an important role in standardizing global SARS vaccines experiments.

In February, the State Drug Administration (SDA) authorized Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Co Ltd to select volunteers for China's first clinical test of the vaccine.

The first phase of the testing will last three months and be done in Beijing, South China's Guangdong Province or neighboring Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

The volunteers will comprise 15 men and 15 women between the ages of 18 and 40. They will go through medical examinations and clinical observations.

The vaccine was found to be safe and effective in experiments on animals, including the rhesus monkey, which has a more similar immune system with humans than other animals.

The first phase of the test is to determine if it is safe and effective on humans. There were still risks, Chinese experts said.

The vaccination might cause minor adverse effects such as low fever and pain. But these symptoms disappear naturally without medical treatment.

(China Daily March 8, 2004)

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