Coronavirus

BioNTech vaccines for German expatriates in China arrive

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A shipment of BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for German nationals in China have arrived at the German embassy in Beijing, an embassy spokesperson told Reuters on Friday.

“We can now happily confirm that the vaccines have arrived at the embassy and they will be stored here until we can officially start the vaccination drive which will be as soon as possible,” the spokesperson said.

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The vaccines, a batch of 11,500 doses of the German company's vaccine, arrived late Thursday evening at the embassy, the spokesperson said.

The doses, which landed in China on Wednesday, are enough to give one shot each to half of the 20,000 or so German nationals residing in China. Their arrival comes as cases surge after Beijing dismantled its zero-COVID-19 regime of lockdowns.

The vaccines will be sent to German companies and embassy and consulate locations. Talks are also underway with other European Union governments about getting them to citizens of other nationalities, a source familiar with the situation said.

China would need to approve expanding access beyond the about 20,000 German nationals, the source said on Wednesday.

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.

China’s foreign ministry did not respond to a written Reuters query on Thursday on whether it would give approval for the BioNTech vaccines to be given to other foreign nationals or Chinese citizens.

BioNTech said on Thursday the delivery contained both the vaccine targeting the original strain of COVID-19 and an updated one targeting the BA.4/BA.5 subvariants of omicron.

BioNTech said it is working with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical to deliver the shots across China, with availability expected in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu.

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