Previously, China said only that it would make it easier for those who have received Chinese vaccines to enter countries where they are not available. No foreign coronavirus vaccine has yet been proven for use in China.
The new consideration of Western vaccines reflects China’s efforts to reopen as the pandemic subsides in some parts of the world and countries are considering different types of vaccine passports that could facilitate a return to international travel.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said James Zimmerman, a Beijing-based partner at international law firm Perkins Coie and a former chairman of the US Chamber of Commerce.
“It is very important for international travel to restart as soon as possible for business, tourism and education,” he said. “American colleges and universities have another year to lose if something is not worked out soon.”
Travel to China remains limited to those considered to take important trips, such as resuming work or visiting sick relatives.
The Chinese embassy briefly stopped to recommend American travelers get Western vaccines, but said they should follow the injection plan if they were given them.
“The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need two doses, and the J&J vaccine needs one dose,” the embassy said in a September 16 Chinese-language online statement. they have completed the required number of inoculations. ”
The embassy said U.S. coronavirus vaccination records could be used to support a pledge to the health code if the traveler’s antibody test comes back unsafe.
China controlled its coronavirus outbreak earlier than most countries, and it began mass vaccination months ahead of the United States. But recently, Chinese health experts have warned that the country may lag behind in vaccination rollout due to lower efficacy rates for China’s vaccines and limited supply of the shots compared to the massive population.
Wall Street Journal reported last week that China planned to prove its first foreign coronavirus vaccine by July.
An employee who answered the phone at the Chinese consulate in Chicago on Monday said vaccination was not a requirement for entry into China. Those who have been vaccinated would have this information recorded in their QR code for health, she said. The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
To enter China now under pandemic measures, a traveler must test negative on two types of coronavirus tests: one for the genetic material of the virus and another for IgM antibodies, which the body produces in the first weeks after infection.
But a recent vaccination could also give a positive result on the antibody test, the Chinese embassy said in the online message.
Those who received a non-definitive positive IgM antibody test may still receive a health QR code if they have received a Chinese vaccine under the new guidelines. If they received the Pfizer, Moderna or J&J vaccines, they can get a code with a little more hassle by providing their vaccination journal and taking another type of antibody test that scans for The N protein instead of the S protein.
Unvaccinated travelers who test positive for the antibody test face a series of tests to prove that they are not infected.
Separately from the QR code for health, travelers must apply for a visa in a process that has been tightened in the pandemic. Upon arrival in China, they are required to undergo a two-week quarantine at an official facility followed by a one-week home quarantine.
China has been an early proponent of vaccine passports or certificates that allow governments to verify that an international traveler has been vaccinated. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said last month that China hoped to negotiate mutual recognition of its vaccines with other countries in order to speed up the return to international travel.
But even though they slammed the door on several Western visitors, Chinese authorities expressed concern about the growing number of counterfeit vaccination cards that can be purchased in the United States. When the Chinese consulates in Los Angeles announced the new measures on Friday warned plaintiffs against forgery of vaccination cards.
“The consulate … will review the vaccination certification and, if necessary, contact the department that issued the certification to confirm,” it said.
The embassy in Washington reiterated the mood: “Where the report is untrue, or the vaccination certificate or test report is forged, no health code is issued. All the resulting consequences are borne by the parties themselves. ”
Pei Lin Wu of Taipei, Taiwan, contributed to this report.