European Union offers China free COVID vaccines as cases surge

The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China, the EU executive said on Tuesday, as infections there surged following Beijing’s relaxation of its “zero-COVID” policies.

China has not responded to the offer yet, a spokesperson for the European Commission told journalists at a regular briefing. He did not specify the amount of vaccines the EU was offering or their manufacturers.

“In view of the COVID situation in China, (Health) Commissioner Stella Kyriakides has reached out to her Chinese counterparts to offer EU solidarity and support,” he said.

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“This includes public health expertise as well as variant-adapted EU vaccine donations.”

Asked whether Beijing would accept the EU offer, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning sidestepped a direct reply, telling Reuters that China’s vaccination rate and treatment capacity continued to rise and its supplies were “adequate”.

European Union flags are seen outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 28, 2022. 
(REUTERS/Yves Herman)

She said China was open to “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with the international community” to better meet its pandemic challenges, though it could “meet the demand of anyone who wants to be vaccinated”.

China has so far insisted on using only Chinese-made vaccines – which are of the inactivated virus type and not based on the Western mRNA technology – for its own population.

Last month, Germany shipped 11,500 BioNTech COVID vaccines to German companies and embassy and consulate locations in China for use by German nationals there.

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A source familiar with the situation said at the time that talks were underway with other European Union governments about getting them to citizens of other nationalities.

EU health experts were to meet on Tuesday to discuss the COVID situation in member states ahead of another gathering on Wednesday when EU government representatives will weigh a coordinated approach by the bloc to travellers from China.

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