European Union offers China free COVID vaccines


China appears to reject the offer.

European Union offers China free COVID vaccines

An elderly woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Danzhai, in China’s southwestern Guizhou province, Dec. 21, 2022.

The European Union has offered to provide Chinese authorities with free doses of COVID-19 vaccines, as Beijing struggles to cope with new outbreaks of the virus after relaxing President Xi Jinping’s notorious ‘zero-COVID’ policy, Reuters reported.

A spokesperson for the European Commission, the executive organ of the EU, told reporters that the EU’s Health Commissioner reached out to Chinese officials “to offer EU solidarity and support,” including public health expertise and “variant-adapted EU vaccine donations.”

In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning claimed that China’s vaccination rates were rising and its supplies of the doses were “adequate.” But she also added that China was open to “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with the international community.” 

While the EU offer did not specify which type or brand of vaccine was offered, Chinese authorities have continuously insisted on offering only domestically-made vaccines – which notably do not use the mRNA technology common in most Western COVID-19 vaccines. 

Until last month, China’s insistence on enforcing the ‘zero-COVID’ policy led to widespread restrictions across the country – and protests erupted at the end of 2022 to call for the lifting of draconian lockdown measures. 

Now, facing a lower vaccination rate among the population, Chinese hospitals are seeing a surge in infections and medical officials are scrambling to treat patients. 

In December, Germany shipped over 100,000 Pfizer doses to China, but they were sent to German embassies, consulates, and companies in the country. Other EU countries said they were looking at ways to get Western vaccines to their citizens in the country.

Meanwhile, Reuters also reported that scientists advising the World Health Organization called for a “more realistic picture” of COVID infections in China, indicating growing international concerns about the virus spreading to other countries or developing a new variant that may be resistant to current vaccines. 

The WHO invited Chinese scientists for a closed-door virtual meeting on Tuesday in order to facilitate a conversation about the state of the outbreak in the country. 

“It is in the interests of China itself to come forward with more reliable information,” Dutch virologist Professor Marion Koopmans, who sits on the WHO committee, told Reuters before the meeting. 

Edited by Joshua Lipes. Reuters contributed to this report.

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