BERLIN -- Germany has dispatched a batch of the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to China, where it will be administered to Germans who live in the country.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said the vaccines were sent on a flight that was due to land in China on Wednesday. He said that the Chinese government formally informed Berlin in a diplomatic note that German citizens can be inoculated with the vaccine, which otherwise isn't cleared for use in China.
Some 20,000 Germans in China stand to benefit from the agreement, Hebestreit said, and “at the same time, we are working to make it possible for (other) foreigners, expatriates to benefit from such a step.”
In exchange for China's agreement to allow the limited use of the German-developed BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, Germany is allowing Chinese citizens in Germany to get the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, which hasn't been approved in the European Union.
Scholz said when he visited Beijing in early November that China would make BioNTech-Pfizer shots available for expatriates and said that can "only be a first step,” indicating that he hoped the vaccine's use could be expanded to the Chinese public.
China so far has approved only domestic vaccines, which use an older technology that has typically proven less effective at preventing the spread of the disease than the BioNTech-Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.