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China has opened its mass domestic COVID-19 inoculation drive for the first time to Beijing-based diplomats and foreign journalists by offering a vaccine developed by a Chinese pharmaceutical company.

A notice issued to the foreign journalists here on Wednesday said they can get the Inactivated SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine, developed by Sinopharm’s China National Biotec Group. Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine has been granted conditional market approval by China’s National Medical Products Administration.

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The vaccines are offered to people in the age group of 18 to 59 years.

Diplomats from all the foreign missions here, including those from India, have been invited to take the Chinese vaccine.

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Recipients will receive vaccination on a voluntary basis with informed consent, pay for the relevant expenses, and bear related risks, the notice issued to the foreign journalists said. It did not specify the charges involved.

An advisory issued along with the notice said, experiments show that COVID-19 inactivated vaccines are relatively safe, but that does not guarantee zero vaccine reaction .

Before inoculation, all recipients should read the COVID-19 Inactivated Vaccine Information Consent carefully and confirm that they are fully aware of the possible adverse reactions and do not have contraindications to vaccination.

Also for the first time, the notice mentioned clinical trial data of the Chinese vaccine. So far about 65 million Chinese people have been vaccinated in the current drive within the country.

According to the existing clinical trial data, pain at the injection site is the most frequent reported local reaction, with other local reactions, including itching, swelling, induration and redness. The most-reported systemic reaction is fatigue, fever, muscle pain, headache, cough, diarrhoea, nausea, anorexia and allergy.

According to the available data, 80 per cent of the adverse reactions following the vaccination of China’s domestic COVID-19 vaccine are general adverse reactions, six out of 100,000 are abnormal reactions, most of which are single rashes. The possibility of adverse serious reaction is one in a million.

It also said that before getting vaccinated, the recipients are required to inform health workers of their health conditions, including any underlying condition and sign a consent form on site.

After inoculation, the recipients must stay on the spot for 30 minutes. In case of any discomfort, they should consult on-site health workers in time.

While the first aid services will be available at the vaccination site, the notice provided details of the international hospital to approach in case of any adverse reactions later.

It said the recipients need to receive two shots costing 90 yuan each (about Rs 900 a shot), at least 21 days apart.

Within six months after vaccination, it is recommended not to get inoculated with other brands of COVID-19 vaccines , it said.

Existing clinical research data show that most people produce antibodies against COVID-19 after vaccination, but no vaccine can be 100 per cent effective. Therefore, recipients will still need to comply with all the prevention and control requirements after vaccination, and take personal protective measures such as mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, social distancing, and reducing group activities, it said.

It said that local health insurance companies have introduced short-term accident insurance schemes to cover the costs of adverse reactions after COVID-19 vaccination.

Sinopharm is one of the five Chinese coronavirus vaccines approved by China for emergency use. However, none of the Chinese vaccines have yet received the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) approval. The COVID-19 pandemic first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The highly-infectious disease has killed over 2,680,000 people and infected more than 121,196,000 across the world.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media here on March 7 that China has donated or is donating COVID vaccines to 69 developing countries and is exporting vaccines to 43 countries.

China has made it mandatory for travellers from 20 countries, including India, to get the jabs of Chinese vaccines in order to travel to the country. This makes it difficult for Indians to travel to China as the Chinese vaccines cannot be accessed in the country.

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