These vaccines have been embraced by the world. Why not in China?

These vaccines have been embraced by the world. Why not in China?

China has done everything in its power to keep the virus outside its borders and protect its people — almost.

It has kept cases and deaths remarkably low through a “zero-Covid” strategy that has involved tracking and tracing every case, closed its borders and locked down cities of millions of people. It fostered domestic vaccines that allowed the country to carry out a massive inoculation effort.

But two years into the pandemic, China’s 1.4 billion people still don’t have access to one of the most effective coronavirus vaccines the world has to offer. Those vaccines use the breakthrough mRNA technology that was developed and approved in the West, and they have been embraced by dozens of countries.

The effectiveness of Chinese vaccines has been in doubt — partly because they use a century-old method for inoculation. Last spring, the country said it would approve BioNTech, the German mRNA shot made in partnership with Pfizer. Months later, China said that it was also close to producing its own mRNA vaccine. Neither are available today.

China’s lack of an mRNA shot — and its delay in approving a viable foreign option — has poked holes in Beijing’s victorious pandemic narrative and prompted experts to question whether the country’s go-it-alone approach is less triumphant than officials would have the world believe.

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