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Zeng Yixin, Vice Minister of National Health Commission, and director of the vaccine R&D working group under the State Council's inter-agency task force, at a press conference in Beijing, China last December. Photo: Leo Ramirez/AFP via Getty Images

A top Chinese health official said Thursday the government doesn't accept World Health Organization plans for a follow-up investigation into COVID-19's origins — labeling a theory that it started from a laboratory leak a "rumor," per AP.

Why it matters: National Health Commission Vice Minister Zeng Yixin's comments come days after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was "too early" to rule out the lab leak theory and proposed a second phase of study into the virus' origins.

What they're saying: Zeng said at a news conference he was "surprised" by a WHO proposal to revisit Wuhan, where the virus was first detected and where a group of researchers from the UN health body visited in January, Al Jazeera reports. He called the follow-up plan "not scientific."

  • "It is impossible for us to accept such an origin-tracing plan," he added, per AP.

Flashback: Tedros said last week that uncovering the coronavirus' origins was "a scientific exercise that must be kept free from politics," according to Reuters.

  • "For that to happen, we expect China to support this next phase of the scientific process by sharing all relevant data in a spirit of transparency," he said.

The big picture: The debate over the origins of the coronavirus has gained traction in recent months following previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill enough to be hospitalized in November 2019, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal in May.

  • The U.S. and other countries, along with some scientists, have demanded a follow-up investigation by the WHO.
  • President Biden said in May he had asked the American intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to investigate the virus' origins.

Go deeper: Why we need to know COVID's origins

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.

Updated Sep 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question — Los Angeles County to require vaccination proof at indoor bars — France suspends 3,000 unvaccinated health workers without pay.
  2. Health: Worsening crisis at Rikers Island jail spurs call for action — 1 in 500 Americans has died — Cases are falling, but deaths are rising.
  3. Politics: White House invites call with Nicki Minaj to discuss vaccine — Gottlieb says CDC hampered U.S. response — 26 states have limited state or local officials' public health powers.
  4. Education: Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap — Federal judge temporarily blocks Iowa's ban on mask mandates in schools — Massachusetts activates National Guard to help with school transportation.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Sep 18, 2021 - Health

Mississippi reports rise in COVID-19 deaths among pregnant women

Dr. Thomas Dobbs speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2020. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At least eight pregnant women in Mississippi, who weren't fully vaccinated, have died of COVID-19 since late July, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The eight pregnant women who have died from the virus more than doubles the state's pandemic total in just two months.