BioNTech said on Thursday it had sent 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 shipment that landed in China on Wednesday contained both the original COVID-19 vaccine targeting the original strain of the coronavirus and its updated vaccine targeting Omicron’s BA.4/BA.5 sub-variants.
“The arrival of vaccine doses in mainland China is a big milestone for us as joint partners with Fosun Pharma and our efforts to address this pandemic,” said Sean Marrett, Chief Business and Commercial Officer of BioNTech.
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 injections to greater China.
The shipment comes as Beijing dismantles its strict “zero COVID” lockdown regime, which led to a surge in cases. China has so far insisted on using only domestically produced vaccines for its own population. They are not based on Western mRNA technology.
BioNTech’s vaccines will be sent to German companies in China as well as embassy locations, and talks are underway with other European Union governments about making them available to citizens of other nationalities, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.
China would have to approve expanding access beyond about 20,000 German citizens, the source said.
A French health ministry official said Thursday that France had not yet decided how best to vaccinate expatriates in China, but that the government was monitoring the situation closely.