Frontline employees in the civil aviation industry will be the next key group to take a COVID-19 vaccine on an emergency basis, a document obtained by the Global Times shows.
A staff member takes out samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at a vaccine production plant of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in Beijing, capital of China, April 11, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)
The move is intended to guard against any second wave of the epidemic that may occur in China in the autumn and winter, as well as the huge pressure brought by easing of travel restrictions by Western countries, said the document, which was released by the CAAC North China Regional Administration on Tuesday.
The document says the emergency use of any vaccine will only involve volunteers aged 18-59, and the key groups include frontline civil aviation workers and frontline health workers.
Employees at several domestic airlines confirmed this information. An anonymous employee said that the document covers frontline workers such as pilots, cabin crew, ground service personnel and flight attendants. It's not clear which vaccine they will receive or what it will cost.
The civil aviation industry is the latest field to be involved in launching vaccines. They follow Chinese construction and technological companies and the military, which have a considerable number of people working overseas. Some COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed in China have achieved positive results in clinical trials and are ready for emergency use.
Leading vaccine producer China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) signed an agreement with technology giant Huawei, whose business covers more than 170 countries and regions, on Tuesday to facilitate strategic cooperation on resource and service support for a COVID-19 inactivated vaccine, widely seen as an offer to extend vaccinations to more Chinese employees who frequently go abroad for business.
In an interview with CGTN on Wednesday, Gao Fu, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, urged the public to take the flu vaccine this winter before a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
Zheng Zhongwei, director of the Development Center for Medical Science and Technology of the National Health Commission, told China Central Television on August 22 that China officially launched the urgent use of COVID-19 vaccines on July 22.
Zheng noted that in the next step of preventing possible outbreaks this autumn and winter, vaccines will be offered to people working in food markets, transport systems and services industries.
As a group that may come into contact with a large number of passengers, civil aviation frontline employees face a greater risk of infection in their daily work, especially pilots and cabin crew on international routes.
A pilot from one domestic airline recently flew several international flights. He told the Global Times that although the carrier strictly implemented epidemic prevention and control measures, he still didn't dare to take off protective wear during the long flight.
The pilot said that he welcomes relevant departments to provide frontline civil aviation staff with the vaccine, and everyone can choose whether to take it or not.
The civil aviation regulator had cancelled 52 inbound flights by Tuesday, triggered by the circuit breakers.
Beijing has resumed direct international flights starting on Thursday as the COVID-19 outbreak has been contained.