Strange reports are coming out of China, where a state-backed firm is claiming that dozens of staff have already been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), which mines nickel in the communist country, made the claim before sending 48 workers to a mine in Papua New Guinea (PNG).
MCC warned PNG officials that the workers might test positive for the virus because they had received a vaccine.
“In response, Papua New Guinea authorities called for ‘immediate clarification’ from Beijing and blocked a charter flight full of Chinese workers that was due to land Thursday,” France 24 reported.
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While moving its staff into place, MCC’s subsidiary firm Ramu NiCo told Papua New Guinea authorities that any positive coronavirus test results were “the normal reaction of the vaccination and not due to infection,” according to a Chinese and English-language statement obtained by AFP.
The 48 members of staff at its multi-billion-dollar mine had “been vaccinated with SARS-COV-2 vaccine” before their return, it said. China has previously indicated that it would test vaccines on military personnel and staff at state-backed companies, but it is not clear whether these tests were carried out on workers heading overseas.
“It takes around seven days to produce antibodies in the vaccine recipient’s body after being vaccinated,” the statement reads. “If they need to be tested again for COVID-19, it is suggested to be conducted at least seven days after the vaccination date.”
Papua New Guinea’s pandemic tsar David Manning told AFP he wants answers. “I am demanding an explanation from the Chinese ambassador as to how this has happened,” he said. “I have written to the Chinese government through the Chinese ambassador — to explain how these 48 employees of this state company were vaccinated.”
Chinese ambassador Xue Bing told AFP: “We don’t have any comments for the moment. However, one thing is for sure, China is not doing [coronavirus] tests here in PNG.”
So far, only Russia has claimed to have successfully created a vaccine.
Russia last week approved a vaccine for COVID-19, becoming the first nation in the world to claim to have made the achievement.
President Vladimir Putin, who announced the approval of the vaccine, said one of his two adult daughters has already been inoculated. Putin also said the vaccine underwent all tests to show its effectiveness, although Russian officials offered no data to back up his claim. The approval was granted by Russian health officials after just two months of human testing, Reuters reported.
“A vaccine against coronavirus has been registered for the first time in the world this morning. I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity,” Putin said on state TV. “I repeat, it has passed all the needed checks. … We must be grateful to those who made that first step very important for our country and the entire world.”
Putin said that his daughter had a 104.4-degree temperature when she had her first vaccine injection. Her temperature dropped to 98.6 degrees the next day, while a second shot brought a slight increase in her temperature, which later dropped, The Associated Press reported.
The vaccine, called Sputnik-V, which is a reference to the 1957 launch of the world’s first satellite by the Soviet Union, was developed by the Gamaleya Institute, which is based in Moscow. Russia’s health ministry said the vaccine can provide coronavirus immunity for up to two years, according to the AP. The inoculations could be available as soon as next month.
But scientists warned that the vaccine never underwent Phase 3 trials — which involve thousands of patients and usually lasts for months.