Samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine are seen at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 10, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
China's Foreign Ministry and experts have slammed rumors hyped by the US side that Chinese hackers and spies are trying to steal their research materials for COVID-19 vaccine and drug development, saying the two countries are developing different products and that China is actually leading in vaccine development.
The New York Times on Sunday reported that FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in the US are preparing to issue a warning that China's hackers and spies are working to steal American research on the development of vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus.
China leads in R&D for COVID-19 vaccines and other therapies, and any attempt to smear or frame China without evidence is immoral, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a routine press conference on Monday, slamming the groundless report.
China firmly safeguards cybersecurity and always opposes and cracks down on any form of cyber attacks, Zhao noted.
Three inactivated vaccines and a recombinant one have been put into clinical trials, and three of them have entered the second phase of clinical trials, including an inactivated vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech, a Beijing-based company, according to media reports.
Sinovac Chairman Yin Weidong told media on Sunday that the company will start pilot production of the inactivated COVID-19 vaccine candidate in July.
US President Donald Trump said on May 3 that a COVID-19 vaccine may be available in the US by the end of 2020.
Chinese experts refuted the groundless US accusation, noting that the two countries have different development paths. According to a Beijing-based expert on immunology who asked for anonymity, China is focusing on developing inactivated vaccines while the US is working on DNA and RNA vaccines, which means the US' research materials would be of little value to China.
The expert noted that China has openly shared information and data about the virus and the epidemic with the world since the outbreak. The openly shared information is sufficient for China's research, the expert said.
China is also cooperating with foreign partners on vaccine and drug development, including the US, UK and Germany.
The US' accusation, although groundless, has reminded Chinese companies and research groups to protect their technologies, the expert said.
US could only harm existing cooperation mechanisms by making such ridiculous accusations against China, Lü Xiang, a research fellow on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday.
China is fully able to research and develop COVID-19 vaccines independently. If the US claims China is stealing its data, then the US needs to prove that it has achieved more progress than China, said Lü, otherwise, why would China be interested in it?
Lü said the epidemic situation in China has been generally brought under control, and daily life and economic activities are returning to normal. Meanwhile, the US has more than 1.3 million infections and the number continues to increase.
"We are not the ones who desperately need the vaccine, they are," Lü said.