Head of China CDC gets injected with experimental vaccine

Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), speaks to journalists after a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Jan. 26, 2020. Gao has revealed Tuesday, July 28, 2020 he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in what he said is an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC), speaks to journalists after a press conference at the State Council Information Office in Beijing on Jan. 26, 2020. Gao has revealed Tuesday, July 28, 2020 he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in what he said is an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BEIJING – The head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention says he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an attempt to persuade the public to follow suit when one is approved.

“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu said in a webinar Sunday hosted by Alibaba Health, an arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant, and Cell Press, an American publisher of scientific journals. “I hope it will work.”

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that a state-owned Chinese company injected employees with experimental shots in March, even before the government-approved testing in people — a move that raised ethical concerns among some experts.

Gao did not say when or how he took the vaccine candidate, leaving it unclear whether he was injected as part of a government-approved human trial. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The claim underscores the enormous stakes as China competes with U.S. and British companies to be the first with a vaccine to help end the pandemic — a feat that would be both a scientific and political triumph.

China has positioned itself to be a strong contender. Eight of the nearly two dozen potential vaccines in various stages of human testing worldwide are from China, the most of any country.

Gao declined to say which of the vaccines he was injected with, saying he didn’t want to be seen as “doing some kind of propaganda” for a particular company.

Last month, Gao was a coauthor on a paper introducing one candidate, an "inactivated” vaccine made by growing the whole virus in a lab and then killing it. That candidate is being developed by an affiliate of state-owned SinoPharm.