First foreign COVID vaccines head to China from Germany

  • BioNTech shot batch en route to China
  • German citizens will be shot; Berlin pushes for wider use
  • The shipment follows Scholz’s visit to China last month.
  • It comes as infections surge in the world’s No. 2 economy

BERLIN, Dec 21 (Reuters) – Berlin has shipped its first batch of BioNTech (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccines to China will initially be given to German expatriates, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday, the first foreign coronavirus vaccine to be delivered to the country.

No details were available about the timing and size of the drop, although the spokesman said Berlin is pushing for foreigners other than German citizens, estimated to number around 20,000, to be able to access the shot if they wish.

The shipment comes after China agreed to allow German citizens in China to receive the injection following an agreement during Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz’s visit to Beijing last month, with the German leader pushing for Beijing to allow the injection to be available as well. freely available to Chinese citizens. .

In a letter to be sent to German citizens in mainland China, the government said it would offer basic vaccines and boosters of vaccines approved for use in the European Union free of charge to anyone over the age of 12.

Relatives of other nationalities would not be included. Immunizations for children under 12 years of age may follow at a later date.

“We are working on the possibility that, in addition to Germans, also other foreigners can be vaccinated with BioNTech,” the spokesman told reporters in Berlin.

The vaccines will be delivered to German companies in China as well as embassy locations and talks are underway with other EU governments to get them to citizens of other nationalities, a source familiar with the situation said.

China would need to approve the expansion of access beyond German citizens, the source said.

In return, Chinese citizens in Europe can get vaccinated with China’s SinoVac (SVA.O)said the spokesman.

The comment follows a report earlier this month that the German Health Ministry had granted a permit allowing the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to be imported from China into Germany for administration to Chinese citizens in that country.

The vaccine has not been approved for use by Europe’s drug regulator, but the World Health Organization has given the green light for its use.

Beijing has so far insisted on using only domestically produced vaccines, which are not based on Western mRNA technology but more traditional technologies.

The shipment comes amid Beijing’s dismantling of its strict “zero-COVID” lockdown regime, which has led to a surge of cases that caught a fragile health system off guard.

Experts predict the country of 1.4 billion people could face more than a million COVID deaths next year.

Allowing German expatriates access to a Western takeover is a grand gesture for Berlin, reflecting Beijing’s push to strengthen ties with the EU’s biggest economy after years of trade and climate tensions between the two countries.

BioNTech shares rose on the shipment news, closing 2.3% higher in Frankfurt, while Pfizer New York shares rose 1.25% in late-morning New York trading. .

BioNTech was not immediately available to comment on the situation on Wednesday.

China is caught between rising Covid-19 cases and stagnant vaccination rates

NO WEST SHOTS

China has nine nationally developed COVID vaccines approved for use, more than any other country. But none have been updated to attack the highly infectious Omicron variant, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. (MRNA.O) they have for reinforcements in many developed countries.

The two shots developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are the most widely used around the world.

Early in the pandemic, BioNTech reached an agreement with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical (600196.SS) with a view to supplying the shots to Greater China.

While the injections have been made available in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, the regulatory review for mainland China has yet to be concluded. BioNTech has said the decision was up to Chinese regulators and has not explained the reason for the delay.

China’s zero-COVID policy and lockdown measures have kept death and infection rates to a minimum for the past few months, but have caused massive disruptions both domestically and to global trade and supply chains.

China uses a narrow definition of COVID deaths and reported no new deaths for Tuesday, even scratching one off its overall tally since the pandemic began, now at 5,241, a fraction of the tolls of many far less populous countries.

The National Health Commission said Tuesday that only deaths caused by pneumonia and respiratory failure in patients who had the virus are classified as COVID deaths.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Alexander Ratz, and Christian Kraemer; Additional reporting by Danilo Masoni in Milan and Amanda Cooper in London; Written by Miranda Murray; Edited by Josephine Mason and David Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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