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Reports: China postponing COVID-19 vaccine plans amid slow rollout

China's plan to administer domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines to 50 million people by Lunar New Year is coming under review, according to a press report Monday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
China's plan to administer domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines to 50 million people by Lunar New Year is coming under review, according to a press report Monday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 8 (UPI) -- China could be extending a deadline for COVID-19 vaccines amid a relatively slow vaccine rollout, even after the approval of a second coronavirus vaccine.

The Chinese government's goal of vaccinating 50 million people by the Lunar New Year on Friday is being postponed to end of March as rollout lags behind the United States and Europe, Bloomberg reported Monday.

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As of Feb. 3, China has administered 31 million doses, focusing on health workers key to fighting the pandemic.

China has been struggling with public perceptions of domestically developed vaccines. According to Bloomberg, the Chinese public remains distrustful. State media has been warning about potential side effects associated with vaccines in the West, but the reports could also be having an impact on receptivity of Chinese vaccines.

Du Yuping, a former World Health Organization official, told Al Jazeera the goal of vaccinating 50 million people "doesn't mean much" in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion.

"It is only one-thirtieth of the total population," Du said. "If 500 million are inoculated, [then] we'll see the difference. China can't afford to relax."

Despite potential shortages domestically, China is moving forward with plans to supply its vaccines to the outside world.

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Beijing foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday that the Chinese vaccines will be made a global public good, "contributing to the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries."

Wang said China has agreed to donate vaccines to 53 nations and to export 10 million doses to the COVAX Facility, managed by the WHO. Shipments already have arrived in Pakistan, Cambodia and Laos, Wang said.

China's promotion of domestic vaccines comes at a time pro-Chinese propaganda online is attempting to discredit U.S. vaccines.

PBS Frontline reported last week videos in a pro-Chinese network suggested the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines being distributed in the United States are unsafe. The media did not provide evidence for the claims, according to the report.

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