A major Chinese state-run pharmaceutical company is going to extreme, and some might say dangerous, lengths to develop a coronavirus vaccine at a moment the global race is on to get one safely out.
The company announced this week that its Chinese employees and even top executives stood in as guinea pigs for a "pre-test" of its potential new vaccine.
SinoPharm said that 30 of its own "special volunteers" had the experimental vaccine administered to them prior to it going through a rigorous regulations and official approval process. It's bringing up serious ethical questions over to what degree state-linked Chinese firms are coercing their employees into participating in unregulated and experimental pharmaceutical tests.
The Associated Press reported of the company statements:
SinoPharm’s claim that 30 “special volunteers” rolled up their sleeves even before the company got permission for its initial human study raises ethical concerns among Western observers. The company’s post cites a “spirit of sacrifice” and shows seven men in suits and ties — a mix of scientists, businessmen and one Communist Party official with a background in military propaganda.
The SinoPharm statement touted that its employees were “giving a helping hand in forging the sword of victory.”
China's state media propagated the firm's statement via English language outlets:
Top Chinese executives at SinoPharm say they are proud to receive experimental shots ahead of government approved testing in people. The online post “giving a helping hand in forging the sword of victory,” highlights the world’s race to find a vaccine for #COVID-19. pic.twitter.com/nz72kiLANp— CGTN America (@cgtnamerica) July 16, 2020
Currently there's some eight experimental vaccines in various stages of testing being developed in China, and many more at labs worldwide.
SinoPharm brochure touting that their own top executives are receiving an experimental shot:
The Hill described that SinoPharm's vaccine is unique, in that it "mirrors the development of the polio vaccine, and uses an 'inactivated' or killed virus to develop the vaccine. Most Western vaccine development uses technology to focus on the protein on the virus instead."
Critics have said it sets a precedent for employees at Chinese companies to feel "pressured" or forced into being human subjects in unapproved and unregulated tests. The whole thing also presents a severe conflict of interest when it comes whatever limited anecdotal data might be gained from tests on a few dozen of their own employees.