Change in regulations not a sign that foreign vaccines now recognized: experts
Published: Apr 21, 2021 10:17 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

Chinese experts said some foreign media reports misinterpreted China's latest health code application regulations for foreign COVID-19 vaccine recipients in the US, saying that the aim is to prevent imported cases, and it is not an indication that China is now recognizing foreign vaccines.  

The latest regulations have been issued for visa applicants whose IgM test results are positive, which could be caused by vaccines or infection, according to the notice issued on the website of the Consulate General in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

For these applicants, if they accept Chinese inactivated vaccines, they can apply for a Chinese health code - a certificate to demonstrate their health condition so that they can be allowed to move freely in China - as long as they provide negative nucleic test acid and vaccination certificates, the Los Angeles consulate general said. 

For those who accept foreign vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, they also have to accept nucleocapsid (N) protein tests.

The N protein is a viral structural protein functioning as a replication unit to localize the replication and transcription complexes. It is a widely used target in the diagnosis of COVID-19.

IgM positive results may occur after infection or within two to three weeks after the recipients accepted full shots. The latest detailed regulations are probably aimed at ensuring that, when this situation occurs, the recipients are can still get a visa and travel as long as they can prove that the positive results are caused by vaccines rather than COVID-19 infection, explained Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert.  

However, it is far from an indication that China is now recognizing foreign vaccines, Tao told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Recognition of a vaccine means recognition of the vaccine's efficacy. Requirements for tests for the N protein, a diagnosis target, clearly show that China has not recognized these foreign vaccines' efficacy in preventing infection or disease, according to the expert.   

Earlier on April 16, the Chinese Embassy in the US issued a similar notice, which, in a Tuesday report by The Washington Post, was interpreted as a sign that China has begun accepting US vaccination records in travel applications as the country seeks to negotiate mutual recognition of vaccine passports with other nations.

China has been promoting health code mutual recognition with some countries such as South Korea to resume exchanges. But the health code is a more comprehensive system containing the holders' health information such as nucleic acid test results and travel information, rather than just vaccination records.

The mutual recognition of health information is a necessary measure to resume exchanges. The vaccine passport is a more complex issue as it is not only related to the efficacy of the vaccines, but, as the World Health Organization warned, it may lead to unfairness for people who have difficulty in getting access to vaccines, Chinese experts noted. 

China has not denied entry to people who have had foreign vaccines, but many Chinese embassies announced measures to facilitate visa application for people who have had Chinese COVID-19 vaccines. 

Hua Chunying, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, noted at a press conference on March 24 that these measures would affect the application procedure for people who have not had Chinese vaccines, and all international travelers to China still have to abide by China's quarantine policy after arriving.    

So far, China is still implementing the same strict quarantine requirements for all international arrivals, a source close to China's health authority told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The source said that the latest regulations from the agencies in the US are intended to prevent imported cases with more detailed and specific measures for the global vaccination process.