China says Xi Jinping and other leaders have received domestically produced Covid-19 vaccines amid public safety concerns.

Deputy head of the National Health Commission (NHC) Zeng Yixin said on Saturday that “all current state and party leaders in China” have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with locally produced shots, referring to senior national-level officials and national-level deputies, including Xi, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other senior leaders.

Information about the health of Chinese leaders is rarely made public, but the announcement came amid the recent spate of Covid-19 infections and public concerns about vaccine safety.

Zeng did not specify when the officials were vaccinated or if they received boosters. President Xi’s vaccination status has not been previously disclosed.

China has repeatedly tried to address issues related to the safety of its vaccines and increase vaccination rates, especially among the elderly. While almost 90% of China’s eligible population has been fully vaccinated, only 61% of people over 80 years of age have been fully vaccinated and only 38.4% have received boosters, according to the NHC.

On Saturday, the NHC addressed online speculation about the safety of vaccines, including allegations that they cause leukemia and diabetes in children, saying statistics show no evidence that these diseases are linked to vaccines.

Shanghai fears new lockdown as millions test for Covid amid sweltering heat

Of the nearly 3.4 billion doses of Covid-19 administered in China, only about 70 per million reported side effects, according to the NHC, far lower than other vaccines such as polio, measles, hepatitis B, rabies and flu.

So far, China has only allowed domestic vaccines for use in the mainland, including those from Sinopharm and Sinovac, which use an inactivated virus instead of genetically engineered mRNA vaccines. In trials, these vaccines showed lower efficacy than their mRNA counterparts, a criticism dismissed by Beijing as “biased…slander.” Beijing instead pointed to the effect of vaccines in reducing severe cases and deaths as an indication of their success.

China has been holdingzero covidthis year, despite the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, causing peer countries to abandon this approach.
Several cities have been shut down in response to new waves of infections, and last month Cai Qi, head of the Beijing Communist Party, reportedly said the city can keep the policy in effect “for the next five years.”