Beijing (Reuters)-Government authorities said on Saturday that once it is open to the public, China will provide free COVID-19 vaccine.
Zheng Zhongwei, an official of the National Health Commission, said that although the production and transportation of vaccines require a certain cost, the government can provide vaccines to individuals for free.
Zheng said at a press conference in Beijing: “Our people don’t have to pay a penny for the vaccine.”
China approved its first vaccine for the general public in late December. Through the emergency use plan, three vaccines have been provided to a limited group of people (including medical staff) at high risk of infection.
The country expanded the vaccination program to more key groups in mid-December, such as employees in the food and public transportation sectors, to prevent the recovery in winter and spring.
National Health Commission official Zeng Yixin said that these vaccines are also free for individuals.
Zeng Qinghong said in the briefing: “We found that some local governments charged individuals with fees, and we… demanded immediate correction.” He added that the local government has since implemented the free vaccination policy correctly.
Zeng Qinghong said that China has injected more than 9 million doses of COVID-1
Cui Gang, an official with the National Health Commission, said that nearly 140,000 people in Hebei Province have taken the COVID-19 vaccine as part of China’s vaccination plan for certain high-risk populations.
Shijiazhuang, the capital of the province, has become a new hotbed of transmission. Local authorities suspended public transportation throughout the city to curb the spread of the virus.
Cui said: “At present, Hebei Province should speed up the progress as soon as possible and complete the vaccination of key populations as soon as possible.”
Reporting by Tian Yaolun, Keshan Liu and Martin Pollard in Beijing; Writing by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Richard Pullin