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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

Oct 30, 2021 - Health

Texas AG sues Biden administration over vaccine mandate for contractors

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on July 11. Photo: Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration over its vaccine mandate for federal contractors, which requires vaccination against the coronavirus no later than Dec. 8.

What they're saying: The executive order is "a dramatic infringement upon individual liberties, principles of federalism and separation of powers, and the rule of law," according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday evening in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Oct 29, 2021 - Health

Supreme Court declines to block enforcement of Maine's vaccine mandate for health workers

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday declined to block enforcement of Maine's COVID vaccine mandate for health care workers while they wait for the court of appeals to rule on the merits of the case.

Why it matters: The 6-3 decision in the emergency appeal was not made on the merits of the case. But in previous rulings, the justices have upheld COVID vaccine requirements — though this is the first case that involves a mandate without religious exemptions.

Oct 29, 2021 - Health

FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11

A health care worker administering a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine to a child in Bingham Farms, Michigan, in May 2021. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized Pfizer and BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine for children five to 11 years old.

Why it matters: All that remains to expand vaccine access to some of the youngest Americans is approval from the CDC.