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China says Xi Jinping and other leaders have received national Covid-19 vaccines, amid public concern over safety

Deputy head of the National Health Commission (NHC), Zeng Yixin, said on Saturday that “all incumbent state and party leaders in China” have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with vaccines manufactured at the level national, referring to senior officials at the national and deputy national level, including Xi, Premier Li Keqiang and other senior leaders.

It is rare for information related to the health of Chinese leaders to be made public, but the statement came amid a recent surge in Covid-19 infections and public concern over vaccine safety.

Zeng did not say when the officials were vaccinated or if they received any boosters. President Xi’s vaccination status had not previously been disclosed to the public.

China has repeatedly sought to answer questions about the safety of its vaccines and to increase its vaccination rates, especially among the elderly. While nearly 90% of China’s vaccine-eligible population has been fully vaccinated, only 61% of people over the age of 80 have been fully vaccinated and only 38.4% have received boosters, according to the NHC.

On Saturday, the NHC addressed online speculation about the safety of vaccines, including accusations that they cause leukemia and diabetes in children, saying statistics show no evidence of these vaccine-related illnesses.

Of the nearly 3.4 billion doses of Covid-19 administered in China, only around 70 people per million have reported side effects – a far lower percentage than other vaccines like polio, measles, hepatitis B, rabies and influenza, said the NHC.

So far, China has only approved locally-made vaccines for use on the mainland, including those from Sinopharm and Sinovac that use inactivated viruses instead of genetically modified mRNA vaccines. In trials, these vaccines have shown lower efficacy than their mRNA counterparts – a criticism dismissed by Beijing as a “bias-driven smear”. Beijing has instead highlighted the effect of vaccines in reducing severe cases and deaths as a measure of their success.

China pursued a “zero Covid” policy this year despite the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, prompting similar countries to abandon the approach.
Several cities have been closed in response to new waves of infection, and last month Beijing Communist Party leader Cai Qi reportedly said the city could keep the policy in place “for the next five years”.


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