China Introduces Vaccine Passports – But Only Those Taking Chinese Vaccines Are Eligible

One major challenge of vaccine passports, loosening travel restrictions for those who can prove they’ve been vaccinated, is deciding which vaccines count.

  • Is the AstraZeneca vaccine as good as Pfizer?
  • Is one Pfizer dose enough, if one Johnson & Johnson dose counts?
  • What about Russia’s Sputnik vaccine which is probably underrated?

China has announced its first ‘vaccine passport’ policy reducing restrictions for people traveling from Hong Kong to mainland China but only for people who have had Chinese-made vaccines.

China raised the stakes in the international vaccine competition on Saturday, saying that foreigners wishing to enter the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong will face fewer paperwork requirements if they are inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines.

…China is trying to increase the international appeal of its shots, even as scientists and foreign governments urge Chinese vaccine makers to be more transparent with their clinical trial data.

The Sinopharm inactivated virus vaccine, in use not just in China but in places like the U.A.E. and Bahrain, has looked pretty good with 79% effectiveness against symptomatic Covid-19. There’s even been speculation that it could wind up being most effective against new variants of the virus, since it introduces the body to the entirety of SARS-CoV-2, and not just the spike protein like most Western vaccines do. It’s the spike protein’s mutations which have caused greater infectiousness.

However the U.A.E. is now giving third doses of the vaccine to individuals with weak immune responses.

In one trial Sinovac’s vaccine saw only 50% efficacy yet it’s accepted for reduced restrictions entering China – but the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines are not.

With Hong Kong’s border largely closed, the policy is largely applicable only to those already in Hong Kong (where Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech are being adminsitered) and those residents permitted to return to Hong Kong. Thus, it’s largely symbolic, but it’s certainly not a move guided by any semblance of science.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m not surprised at all that Chinese did that. They consider Hong Kong as their sovereign territory hence its considered a domestic matter.

  2. Vaccine nationalism is extremely ugly, as practised here by China but also in unpleasant forms by the EU (refusing to export contracted vaccines to Australia) and by the US in its total export ban. To have it extend to vaccine passports is alarming.

    The simple solution must be for civilised countries to move towards a definition of vaccinated which is at least as generous as the definition provided by the WHO. In that way at least there’s some possibility that people can travel. Otherwise, if the US doesn’t permit Sinopharm and China doesn’t permit Pfizer, then nobody can travel from one country to another.

    And, it should be pointed out that local approvals are all under EUA, which means that no local regulator will bother with a vaccine that its home country doesn’t use. So AZ probably won’t be approved for EUA in the US because the US doesn’t need them, not because it’s a bad vaccine (in fact, it appears to be as good as Pfizer and better on some metrics) but because there’s no point. But for a border to be open it must be that the host country accepts that most vaccines are pretty good.

  3. “The Sinopharm inactivated virus vaccine, in use not just in China but in places like the U.A.E. and Bahrain, has looked pretty good with 79% effectiveness against symptomatic Covid-19. ” Umm that is what the drug company claimed. Of course, they don’t share their trial data with international regulators so the reality is anybody’s guess. I wouldn’t trust the chinese vaccine. The countries that are taking it are doing so because they are desperate for a vaccine.

  4. No way in hell would I take a Chinese manufactured vaccine.

    “China is trying to increase the international appeal of its shots”

    I don’t think they’re going to have a whole lot of luck here.

  5. I’m Chinese myself but I would never ever trust anything from the mainland. No way I would ever receive the vaccine from evil China.

  6. I am in Hong Kong and was booked to get the Pfizer vaccine, then this news broke and I switched to Sinovac which I received today (very easy getting an appointment for that one even a day in advance). Looking forward to finally being able to get a visa and get back into the mainland.

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