China's Sinopharm offers experimental COVID-19 vaccines to students

iStock [illustration]

A division of Chinese state-run Sinopharm Group Co Ltd that is developing two COVID-19 vaccines is offering them for free to Chinese students going abroad for higher studies.

That's according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal, which said 481,613 people had taken the vaccine while an additional 93,653 had applied to be inoculated.

The move by China National Biotec Group Co (CNBG) is aimed at boosting public confidence in homegrown inoculations, report said, citing a company website and some students who applied for it.

The announcement of the company distributing vaccines to students appeared on a website where people could sign up to receive it, the newspaper reported.

The website was down starting Tuesday, the report said, adding that it was "under maintenance".

CNBG did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

China launched a vaccine emergency use programme in July, offering three experimental shots developed by a unit of state pharmaceutical giant China National Pharmaceutical Group and US-listed Sinovac Biotech.

A fourth vaccine being developed by CanSino Biologics was approved for use by the Chinese military in June.

On the other hand, an Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company called Group 42 is nearing the end of Phase III clinical trials of a vaccine in partnership with CNBG. 

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