China has announced thjat at least one of the four new COVID-19 vaccines now being developed by Chinese biotech firms should be ready to inoculate the general public by the end of the year.

This startling declaration – the first by any country – was made by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), which also said this timetable might be accelerated to as early as November.

CCDC chief biosafety expert Dr. Guizhen Wu didn't specify which of three candidate vaccines that have been used in inoculations since July will be ready for mass use before the year ends. Dr. Wu vouchsafed for the safety of one of the vaccines, saying she has experienced no abnormal symptoms in recent months after taking a candidate vaccine in April.

The three vaccines used since July have been given to hundreds of thousands of Chinese, including health care and frontline workers. All three vaccines are still undergoing critical phase 3 trials in China and around the world.

Inoculating a general population with an unproven vaccine while clinical trials are still ongoing violates the strict ethical tenets governing vaccine trials, however. Western health experts have expressed alarm China has allowed this situation to occur.

Over the weekend, it was revealed two Chinese biotech firms had injected hundreds of thousands of Chinese with their new COVID-19 vaccines still undergoing clinical trials. China National Biotec Group Company (CNBG), a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, and Sinovac Biotech both admitted to these vaccinations.

CNBG said it used two of its untested vaccines in these mass inoculations involving hundreds of thousands of people. Sinovac revealed it had inoculated 3,000 of its employees and their family members with its candidate vaccine.

The inoculations were later confirmed by the National Health Commission (NHC). Zheng Zhongwei, director of the NHC's science and technology development center, said the central government in Beijing authorized the "emergency use" of the CNBG vaccine on July 22.

He justified the decision to begin inoculating certain groups even as the vaccine is still being tested is "in line with the law." Four of the 10 vaccine candidates currently undergoing phase 3 testing around the world are manufactured by Chinese firms.

The Chinese vaccines are CoronaVac from Sinovac being tested in Brazil and Russia; the Ad5-nCoV from CanSino Biologics being tested in Russia; one CNBG vaccine and an inactivated vaccine from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.