Chinese manufacturers have been bullish about development, with companies Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm even putting their vaccine candidates on display at a trade fair in Beijing this month.

Representatives of the firms told AFP that they hope their vaccines will be approved after phase 3 trials as early as year-end.

And on late Monday, the chief biosafety expert at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control told state broadcaster CCTV that a vaccine would be available to the general public "around November or December."

Wu Guizhen did not specify which vaccine she was referring to, but said "based on the phase 3 clinical results, the current progress is very smooth."

Wu added that she had taken a vaccine in April and has felt good over the past few months, although she did not specify which candidate she had taken.

There are currently nine vaccine candidates in late-stage human trials, although some have hit recent obstacles -- pharma giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University momentarily paused clinical trials last week after a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.

Some of China's vaccine candidates have already been offered to essential workers under an emergency use programme.

A Sinovac spokesman told AFP this month that "tens of thousands" of people had voluntarily taken its vaccine, including 90 percent of its employees and their families -- between 2,000 and 3,000 people.

In June, China's military approved a vaccine for use within its ranks developed by its research unit and a biotech firm.

bys/rox/rma