BioNTech said on Thursday (Dec 22) it had shipped 11,500 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to China to be administered initially to German expatriates, marking the first foreign coronavirus vaccines to be sent to the country.
BioNTech said the delivery, which landed in China on Wednesday, contained both the original COVID-19 vaccine targeting the original strain of the coronavirus, and its updated vaccine targeting the BA.4/BA.5 subvariants of Omicron.
"The arrival of the vaccine doses on the Chinese Mainland is a great milestone for us as joint partners with Fosun Pharma and our efforts to address this pandemic," said Sean Marett, BioNTech's chief business and commercial officer.
The vaccines are expected to be available in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu, BioNTech said.
The group is working with Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical to deliver the shots to greater China.
The shipment comes as Beijing dismantles its strict "zero-COVID" regime of lockdowns, which has led to a surge in cases. China has so far insisted on using only domestically produced vaccines for its own population. These are not based on the Western mRNA technology.
The BioNTech vaccines will be sent to German companies in China as well as embassy locations and talks are underway with other European Union governments about getting them to citizens of other nationalities, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
China would need to approve expanding access beyond about 20,000 German nationals, the source said.
A French health ministry official said on Thursday France had not yet taken a decision on how best to vaccinate expatriates in China but that the government was following the situation carefully.
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