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Countries offer China free vaccines to curb COVID-19 infections

BRUSSELS, Jan 3 – The European Union has offered China free vaccines against COVID-19, the EU executive said on Tuesday, as infections there surged after Beijing eased its “zero COVID” policy.

China has not yet responded to the offer, a spokesman for the European Commission told reporters at a regular briefing. He did not specify the number of vaccines the EU offers, nor their manufacturers.

“In light of 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.

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

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

She said China was open to “strengthening solidarity and cooperation with the international community” to better face its pandemic challenges, although it could “meet the demand of everyone 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 ( 22UAy.DE ) COVID vaccines to German companies and embassies and consulates in China for use by German nationals there.

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A source familiar with the situation said at the time that negotiations were underway with other European Union governments on how to reach out to citizens of other nationalities.

Chinese citizens are already using Indian generic medicines for general medication purpose.

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

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