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The deadly pandemic continues to sweep across the world and countries such as China and the US have seen a recent increase of cases. Now Beijing is building a plant dedicated to manufacturing a coronavirus vaccine.
The plant, costing 550million yuan (£62million), will be based in the city of Ningbo and will start mass-producing anti-coronavirus injections as early as next March, local officials say.
According to a government notice, clinical trials for at least five coronavirus immunisation candidates have started, with three entering their second round of clinical research.
The new factory, which had its groundbreaking ceremony over the weekend, will be run by Beijing-based vaccine group AIM.
It comes after President Xi Jinping pledged to make the country’s coronavirus vaccines a “global public good”.
Reports say the research plant will specialise in developing and producing inactivated coronavirus vaccines.
The plant is also part of a larger vaccine manufacturing base which is set to produce vaccines for diseases such as rabies.
The base will be constructed in three phases with the first including the coronavirus vaccine plant as well as a factory for a rabies vaccine.
China’s disease-control officials believe the vaccine could be ready by this autumn.
Last month, China’s top coronavirus expert, Dr Zhong Nanshan, said: “Some of them could be used for emergency maybe by the end of this year.
“We believe in the autumn or winter this year if they are needed for an emergency.”
The director-general of China’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Dr Gao Fu, predicted Beijing would have a successful vaccine by September.
He said in April: “To develop a vaccine or specific drug, it always takes time.
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“Because the vaccine will be used on healthy people, you want to make sure the vaccine you’re developing is safe and efficient.”
Since the outbreak of the virus, China has faced ongoing criticism over failing to alert the globe about the threat of the deadly pandemic before it was too late.
US President Donald Trump and his administration have also blamed Beijing for the virus.
China has repeatedly denied all allegations.
Last month, Mr Trump’s trade advisor, Peter Navarro, was asked whether the Trump administration are preparing for a second wave of the deadly virus.
He said: “Of course. You prepare for what can possibly happen.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen.
“But of course you prepare. I’ll tell you what.
“We’re a lot more prepared under this president than we were when China foisted this on us to begin with.
“China created this virus, they hid the virus and they sent over hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens here to spread that around and around the world.
“Whether they did that on purpose – that’s an open question. But that’s a fact.”
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