The director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that he has been injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, in order to encourage members of the public to follow suit once a vaccine has been approved.
“I’m going to reveal something undercover: I am injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu reportedly said in a webinar Sunday.
“I hope it will work,” he added.
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The private firm, SinoPharm, reportedly gave a vaccine injection to all members of its staff earlier this month, though it had not been approved for testing by the government – a move that health experts questioned ethically.
Gao did not say whether his vaccine injection is part of a government-approved human trial.
The U.S. and the U.K. have been working on various vaccines in the effort beat China in finding a cure for the coronavirus, a move that would be a win scientifically and politically as the two western countries have shown recent signs of solidarity against the Chinese government.
China reportedly has eight of the roughly two dozen vaccines being developed globally, the most out of any country.
Gao did not specify which vaccine he took, but said he did it in an effort to squash recent conspiracy theories that have arisen around the scientific community.
“Everybody has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” Gao said. “As a scientist, you’ve got to be brave. … If even we didn’t do it, how can we persuade the whole world — all the people, the public — to be vaccinated?”
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Gao received staunch criticism nationally and internationally for his initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, disappearing from the public eye until late April when he gave an interview with CGTN, a state-run media outlet.
U.S.-China relations have become increasingly strained over the last several months, stemming from how China initially handled the outbreak of the virus. The U.S. has repeatedly condemned China’s lack of transparency and call to action and blamed them for the global death toll caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are nearly 16.6 million coronavirus cases and over 650,000 deaths from the virus worldwide. The U.S. has been the most impacted nation, with more than 4.3 million cases and nearly 149,000 deaths.
The U.S. formally withdrew from the World Health Organization, citing concerns over “China-centric” tendencies and accused the Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of having been “bought” by China.
Tedros has also repeatedly called for politics to be put aside during the pandemic in order to work as a global community to find solutions to the crisis.
Gao echoed these sentiments Sunday.
“We don’t want to have China and the U.S. separated scientifically,” Gao said. “We’ve got to work together.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.