China has for the first time offered a Covid-19 vaccination option to diplomats, including those from India, foreigners working in Chinese companies as well as foreign journalists, months after it began to inoculate its own citizens under emergency laws.
Foreigners working in international aid companies have also been given the option to take a shot of a Chinese-made vaccine, HT learnt.
Family members in the age group of 18-59 years are included in the offer.
Beijing rolled out vaccinations for its own citizens, mostly for frontline workers, in health care, customs and specific industries that the government selected under emergency laws in July last year, but it was for the first time, earlier this month, that the government reached out to foreign missions, companies and journalists through the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs.
The vaccine being offered is the inactivated Sars-CoV-2 vaccine, developed by Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group, which has been granted conditional market approval by China’s National Medical Products Administration.
The two shots – the second to be taken after 21 days – will cost about 90-100 yuan each ( ₹900-1,000).
Diplomats, HT spoke to, said they were weighing the option whether to take the shot.
Indians working in the service industries such as restaurants have also been offered the option though their employers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is yet to approve the vaccine, or for that matter, any of the other four jabs given the green signal by the Chinese government.
A Chinese foreign ministry email to expat journalists sent out on Wednesday outlined the offer.
“In order to facilitate the work and life of foreign journalists based in Beijing, the information department of the ministry of foreign affairs will provide facilitation and assistance for the vaccination of foreign journalists in Beijing (including their accompanying family members) who are within the eligible age group (from 18 to 59 years old),” the notice said.
“Recipients will receive vaccination on a voluntary basis with informed consent, pay for the relevant expenses, and bear related risks,” it added.
The government notice said experiments showed that inactivated Covid-19 vaccines were relatively safe, but that’s no guarantee against vaccine-related reaction.
“Prior to inoculation, all recipients should read carefully the Covid-19 inactivated vaccine information consent, and confirm that they are fully aware of the possible adverse reactions and do not have contraindications to vaccination,” the notice said.
The notice added that existing clinical research data show that most people produce antibodies “against Covid-19 after vaccination, but no vaccine can be 100% effective”.
“Therefore, recipients will still need to comply with all the prevention and control requirements after vaccination, and take personal protective measures such as mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and reducing group activities,” the notice said.
China is yet to approve any Covid-19 vaccine developed by Western drug makers; five domestic ones are currently approved in China.
China, according to government officials at a press briefing on Monday in Beijing, has administered 64.98 million doses of vaccines.
China has been slow to vaccinate its people relative to other countries, administering 3.56 doses per 100 people so far in a population of 1.4 billion, Zhong Nanshan, leading a group of experts attached to China’s National Health Commission, said earlier this month.