Chinese authorities are making it easier for certain foreigners to enter the country. Those who have received a Covid-19 vaccine made in China will benefit from a relaxation of entry restrictions.
More than 20 Chinese embassies around the world issued new visa policies over the past week with this condition, including in the United States and United Kingdom — both places where Chinese vaccines aren’t available. China’s foreign ministry has stated that this decision is mainly about restarting international travel. Vaccinated travelers will still face state-run quarantine on arrival.
According to CNN, some experts have raised concerns over China’s decision to prioritize domestic vaccines over those approved by the World Health Organization, which reports show have a higher efficacy rate. Another concern is that the move could be seen as soft pressure mechanism to approve Chinese vaccines world-wide.
Regardless of where a vaccine is made, it is a good vaccine so long as it is safe and effectiveZhao Lijian, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
China has been at the forefront of vaccine development. Locally, nearly 65 million people have been vaccinated with the country’s five approved domestically produced vaccines. According to the Chinese Mission to the UN, as of the 15th of March, China had exported vaccines to nearly 30 countries. Public vaccination programs with Chinese vaccines are underway in Turkey and Indonesia.
In Europe, EU Commissioner Thierry announced earlier this week that the EU Health Passport should be ready by June 15th. The Health Passport is expected to have a QR code to show whether a person has been vaccinated or not.
EU member states, however, will grant free movement to people vaccinated only with shots that have received EU marketing authorization. As of today, only four vaccines, including two versions of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, have been given emergency use listing by the WHO. None are manufactured in China.
According to CNN, none of China’s vaccines have yet been approved by the WHO or have released full Phase 3 trial data. This in turn has caused a lack of clarity over how effective the vaccines really are. The available data suggests China’s vaccines may actually be less effective than other vaccines — Sinovac, for example, had an efficacy rate of 50.38% in late-stage trials in Brazil. This is lower than the 78% announced in China, and lower than the efficacy rate of other vaccines such as Pfizer, which has reported a 95% efficacy rate.
Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, disputed the criticism behind the idea of vaccine nationalism. “Regardless of where a vaccine is made, it is a good vaccine so long as it is safe and effective,” Zhao Lijian said in a press conference. “China stands ready to advance mutual recognition of vaccination with other countries.”