Uzbekistan is set to begin trials of a Chinese-manufactured coronavirus vaccine, authorities have said, with several alternatives under consideration as Tashkent plots a path out of the pandemic, according to Eurasianet.   

Innovation Minister Ibrohim Abdurahmonov told private media on November 9 that Chinese specialists had flown in with doses of the vaccine produced by Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biopharmaceutical last week.

Some 5,000 Uzbek volunteers will be involved in phase-three trials of this vaccine; half will receive the dose, the other half a placebo.

This is the first time that the vaccine – or any vaccine for that matter – will be tested on Uzbek citizens. Volunteers will be entitled to payment.  

The Ministry of Innovative Development, which is overseeing the trials rather than the Health Ministry, has said that it is important for Uzbeks to try out as many vaccines as possible.  Abdurahmonov cited “genetic variation” between different countries and different strains of the coronavirus for this multi-vector approach.

Tashkent ordered 35 million doses of Russia’s vaccine, Sputnik V, back in September and hopes to receive 10 million doses by the end of the year.  But Russia has had trouble scaling up production, The Bell reported on November 3.  And while authorities have already detailed preparations to train personnel and prepare clinics for the imminent Chinese trials, they have not provided details for Sputnik V.

Abdurahmonov has said his government is also considering vaccines under development by U.S. pharmaceutical firm Moderna and British-Swedish giant AstraZeneca.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Uzbekistan is part of the worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The virus was confirmed to have spread to Uzbekistan when its first case was confirmed on March 15, 2020, an Uzbek citizen returning from France.  Uzbekistan's Health Ministry has a list of people who were in contact with the victim, with plans to quarantine them. 

According to Worldometer, there have been 69,397 confirmed cases as of the evening of November 11.  Of them, 66,672 have recovered and 591 have died.