CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A Chinese mining company in Papua New Guinea claims to have immunized employees against COVID-19 in an apparent vaccination test, a newspaper reported Friday.
The South Pacific island nation’s Health Minister Jelta Wong said his department is investigating Ramu NiCo (MCC) Ltd’s claims, according to The Australian.
National Pandemic Response Director David Manning on Thursday banned testing or trials of COVID-19 vaccines in Papua New Guinea and later stressed that the Department of Health had not authorized any such experiments.
“Any vaccine imported into Papua New Guinea must be approved by the National Department of Health and go through rigorous vaccine trials, protocols and procedures” as well as have prior approval from the World Health Organization, Manning said in a statement on Friday. .
Wong did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Communication could not be established with the office of Ramu NiCo Management (MCC) Ltd. in the city of Madang in Papua New Guinea.
A document on company letterhead titled “Vaccination Declaration” noted that 48 Chinese employees “were inoculated with the SARS-COV-2 vaccine” on August 10.
The statement was sent to Papua New Guinea’s National Department of Health and warned that the vaccine could cause false positives among those who received the drug, according to the newspaper.
Manning requested in writing from Chinese Ambassador Xue Bing for “immediate clarification of the Chinese government’s position on the vaccination declaration.”
Australia, Papua New Guinea’s closest neighbor and its largest source of foreign assistance, had learned that China could begin testing coronavirus vaccines in the region, using employees of state-owned companies, according to the newspaper.
Australian officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday.