European Union offers China free COVID vaccines as cases surge

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

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

“Faced with the COVID situation in China, Commissioner (Health) 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 dodged a direct answer, telling Reuters that China’s vaccination rate and treatment capacity continue to rise and that its coverage is “sufficient”.

European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium September 14.  28th, 2022.

European Union flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium September 14. 28th, 2022.
(REUTERS/Yves Hermann)

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

China has so far insisted on only using Chinese-made vaccines – which are of the inactivated virus type and not based on 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 to make them available to citizens of other nationalities.

EU health experts were due to meet on Tuesday to discuss the COVID situation in member states ahead of another meeting on Wednesday where EU government officials will consider a coordinated approach by the bloc towards travelers from China.

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