April 12 (UPI) -- A Chinese official admitted then promptly denied that China's COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective, with the earlier statement going unreported in Chinese state media.
Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday that the current vaccines, including doses from Sinovac and Sinopharm, "don't have very high rates of protection," the BBC reported.
Gao also said the Chinese government is not ruling out mixing different vaccines to increase their efficacy, but then told reporters his earlier statement was "completely misunderstood," the report said.
China previously reassured its citizens and overseas recipients that Beijing had confidence in Chinese products and that the vaccines are safe and effective.
Sinopharm had claimed in January its vaccine had a 79% efficacy rate. Gao's statement could suggest the rate may be lower, thereby supporting claims from trials from countries like Brazil that showed a rate as low as 50%.
Chinese vaccines currently are not qualified for the COVAX vaccine facility, managed by the World Health Organization.
Rogerio Gaspar, the WHO's director of regulation, said last week that the WHO will decide later this month on whether to approve Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for WHO emergency use. Both Chinese companies have so far released only partial data.
On Monday Chinese Foreign Minister said at a promotional event for Hubei Province, the epicenter of the first coronavirus outbreak, that China "opposes vaccine nationalism."
"Vaccines should become a public good around the world," Wang said. "China will support more developing countries to use safe and reliable vaccines."
China came under criticism last year for not exercising transparency at the early stage of the outbreak, and denying WHO officials access to Wuhan.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press that it is critical to "get to the bottom" of the origins of COVID-19.
"We need to do that precisely so we fully understand what happened, in order to have the best shot possible preventing it from happening again," he said.