When coronavirus disease (COVID-19) hit Wuhan, Central China’s Hubei province, late 2019, the Beijing Government successfully sequenced it and reported the genetic information to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The rapid identification of COVID-19 allowed scientists around the world to immediately start developing test kits, treatment options and vaccines.
From then on, China has remained steadfast and has not relented in provide accurate information on the virus. The second largest economy in the world has also mobilized and donated personal protective equipment (PPEs) to many countries, including United States of Africa and the whole of African continent.
It should be noted that during the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan, there were no test kits available, and screening depended on laboratory nucleic acid sequencing analysis, a labour-intensive and costly method.
But the National Medical Products Administration of China took immediate action to speed up the work of biotech companies to develop detection kits. The first kit was introduced on 13 January 2020, with a sufficient supply available two weeks later.
Various experts agree that China’s unprecedented systematic and proactive risk management, based on collaboration between government officials and health experts, has proven to be effective in containing and controlling COVID-19.
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, it is important that countries, including Malawi and other resource-constrained African countries, to take an advice from Major General Chen Wei – the Chinese military’s top epidemiologist and virologist.
The 54-year-old major general is China’s best known biochemical expert and is spearheading an effort in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, in Hubei province.
She is building on China’s first homegrown vaccine against Ebola, which worked very went through a clinical trial in Sierra Leone in West Africa and worked successfully in containing Ebola in countries that were affected by the disease.
Chen is widely credited for her contribution in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, but she has also been recognised for the role she played in relief efforts for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
In an article published in China Science Daily, a newspaper under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China top research institution, Chen says countries need to build powerful ‘lead scientists’ system so that they can spend their life studying and researching certain types of viruses and germs … independent of whether this coronavirus is going away or not.
“Prevention and control of an epidemic can never wait until the disease has happened,” Chen said.
She believes that the scientific battle against an epidemic must be waged even before the pathogen is born.
“It would mean that whenever an epidemic occurs, we will have the best and most authoritative team available and it will not be like what’s happened now when the coronavirus came, and nobody is doing much,” she added.
Chen, a researcher at the Institute of Microbiology and Epidemiology of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, and her team developed the vaccine against the Ebola virus with partner Tianjin CanSino Biotechnology.
Today, she is also one of the scientists who have dedicated their time and effort and are working round the clock to find a vaccine for COVID-19.
In the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, Chen and her team worked from a makeshift laboratory where they looked for treatment for patients and took the lead in developing the plasma therapy that has since been accepted as one of the officially recognised treatment methods.
But government later relocated Chen and her team to a laboratory with the highest biosafety classification at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
After years of research, Chinese scientists’ hard work paid off in the fight against Ebola and SARS. So far, no Ebola case has ever been spotted in China.
Could China’s fight against Ebola shed light on epidemic control on COVID-19?
One of the Chinese journalists, Zhang Zhihao, says soon after arriving in Wuhan in late January 2020, Chen and her team immediately began working on a subunit vaccine.
The vaccine has since been approved for safety, efficacy and quality by a third party.
“Chen said the vaccine also has completed preliminary preparation work for mass production,” said Zhihao in an emailed response to Nyasa Times.
“A subunit vaccine is a type of vaccine that contains only a fragment of the pathogen to stimulate a protective immune response, according to the World Health Organization. It is considered safer and more stable than live-attenuated vaccines, which contain a weakened version of the live pathogen, but it may not elicit as strong a protection as live-attenuated versions,” he added.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :