European Union offers China free COVID vaccines as cases rise

The European Union has offered free COVID-19 vaccines to China, the EU executive said on Tuesday, as infections surged after Beijing relaxed its “zero COVID” policies.

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

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

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“This includes expertise in public health as well as donations of variant-adapted EU vaccines.”

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

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

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

He said China was open to “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with the international community” to better meet its pandemic challenges, although 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 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.

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A source familiar with the situation said at the time that there were talks 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 representatives will weigh a coordinated approach from the bloc to travelers from China.

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