The director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said he was injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, to encourage members of the public to do the same once a vaccine has been approved.
“I am going to reveal something undercover: I was injected with one of the vaccines,” Gao Fu said in a webinar on Sunday.
“I hope it works,” he added.
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The private company, SinoPharm, reportedly administered a vaccine injection to all of its staff earlier this month, although it had not been approved for testing by the government, a move that health experts ethically questioned.
Gao did not say whether his vaccine injection is part of a government-approved human trial.
The United States and the United Kingdom have been working on various vaccines in an effort to beat China to find a cure for the coronavirus, a move that would be a scientific and political victory, as the two western countries have shown recent signs of solidarity against the Chinese government.
China reportedly has eight of the approximately two dozen vaccines that are developed globally, most of any country.
Gao did not specify which vaccine he took, but said he did so in an effort to crush recent conspiracy theories that have emerged around the scientific community.
“Everyone has suspicions about the new coronavirus vaccine,” said Gao. “As a scientist, you must be brave. … If we didn’t even do it, how can we persuade the whole world, all people, the public, to get vaccinated?
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Gao received bitter criticism nationally and internationally for his initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, disappearing from public view until the end of April, when he gave an interview with CGTN, a state-run media outlet.
Relations between the United States and China have become increasingly strained in recent months, due to how China initially handled the virus outbreak. The United States has repeatedly condemned China’s lack of transparency and call to action, and has blamed them for the global number of deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are almost 16.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 650,000 deaths from the virus worldwide. The United States has been the most affected nation, with more than 4.3 million cases and almost 149,000 deaths.
The United States formally withdrew from the World Health Organization, citing concerns about “China-focused” trends, and accused Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of having been “bought” by China.
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Tedros has also repeatedly called for politics to be put aside during the pandemic to work as a global community to find solutions to the crisis.
Gao echoed these sentiments on Sunday.
“We don’t want China and the United States to be scientifically separated,” Gao said. “We have to work together.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.