China's National Healthcare Security Administration has said the country's medical insurance system cannot afford the 'high cost' of vaccinating the population.
After the public health insurance agency said it would not pay for the vaccines, the plans of the Chinese government in this regard are not yet clear.
According to a report in the South China Morning Post, of the 11 vaccine candidates developed by Chinese drug makers, four are in phase 3 clinical trials, and three have already been approved for emergency use. China’s health authority had said in September there was a ‘guidance price’ but it would assess whether this was affordable once vaccines were approved.
The agency said annual premiums for medical insurance remained exceptionally low for some Chinese, giving the example of rural residents, children and retirees for whom the average was about $120 after government subsidies. It said this could only cover basic healthcare needs.
“The current basic medical insurance system focuses on providing basic medical treatment coverage and meeting basic medical needs, and it has not been able to expand the payment scope to cover non-therapeutic items such as vaccines,” the statement said.
A regulation issued in July that took effect last month states that “preventive vaccines are not to be included in the scope of basic medical insurance payments”.
Some advanced economies, including the US, Australia and Japa, have said any COVID-19 vaccines they buy – provided they have been proven safe and effective – will be made available to their citizens for free.