New year, new outbreak: China rush to vaccinate 50 million as the holiday approaches | Global health

In a Shenzhen hospital, Wang Shuiwei, a 21-year-old airport employee, is lining up to receive the second shot.

“I feel it’s safe because a lot of people across the country have had the vaccine, so there shouldn’t be any major problems,” she told the Guardian. “I think it should be effective or else there wouldn’t be many people taking it.”

Wang is one of 50 million people China It aims to vaccinate against Covid-19 in just weeks in one of the most ambitious vaccination campaigns on Earth.

It is fighting its worst spread In 10 months, the nation is pressing ahead with its goal of vaccinating around 3.5% of the population before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 11th, when hundreds of millions of people roam the country to visit family and celebrate.

China has committed to using its own vaccines to vaccinate its own people, and to share it with the rest of the world, especially developing countries. The campaign seeks to boost – or repair – China’s reputation on the world stage after accusations of cover-up and premature missteps in providing protective equipment. There are logistical advantages to China’s offers, but with major concerns about transparency around late-stage clinical data and some contradictory reports, health experts urged caution.

The vaccination campaign was first announced in December, and includes more than 25,300 sites worldwide I mentioned 75 cities And rural villages, to provide vaccinations in two doses separated by 21 days, free of charge. Local Chinese media reports indicate that the clinics have received either the approved Sinovac vaccine in emergencies (for key workers) or the conditionally approved Sinopharm vaccine (for the wider population). The scope and speed of the reported program exceeded others, including US Warp Speed ​​Operation And put it in Britain.

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According to one of the clinics visited by the Guardian, the vaccination record will be combined with it Local health code appsAnd allowing recipients to bypass quarantine when traveling between cities and regions.

The rollout began with people between the ages of 18 and 59 in major worker groups under emergency approvals, and then centered around people at risk before expanding to include all people. Over 60. Authorities aim to have all the first doses given by the end of this week, and the second doses before the festivities start. Wang Bin, an official with the Health Commission, said on Wednesday 10 million doses were given So far, including about 1.6 million people under Emergency system Before issuing full approvals. Health experts He told state media Last week, the current rate was likely to reach 20 million by the deadline, but producers are speeding up production.

This push comes as China announced consecutive days from More than 100 new cases, The highest daily totals since March. Most of the cases were reported among rural residents in Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing. On Thursday, it was reported that The first person to die from Covid In China in eight months. Three cities near Beijing have been closed.

Logistical advantages – and setbacks

Calvin Hu, an associate professor of law at the University of Hong Kong that focuses on bioethics, said the 3.5% drive was not expected to produce herd immunity – health authorities said their ultimate goal is 60-70% vaccination coverage – but they will. Provide some protection while people gather for the new year.

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Hu said there are logistical advantages to China’s bid compared to other countries. The locally made vaccines do not require freezing, which makes transportation and storage much simpler than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines used in countries like the US and UK. China also has the ability to ramp up production at any moment.

The vaccine campaign began long before the current Hebei outbreak. Some experts have questioned the need to speed up vaccination, given major concerns about the transparency and effectiveness of the vaccine.

The two main Chinese vaccines Produced with a historically successful and less dangerous method of using an inactive virus to stimulate an immune response, but the producers and authorities are accused of a lack of transparency, and of not releasing phase III data from international clinical trials.

On Tuesday, Brazilian researchers revealed that the Sinovac vaccine was Much less effective Than mentioned previously. The overall efficacy of 50.38% pushes the vaccine just above the WHO standard of 50% for approval, but it is below the 78% announced last week and well below the efficacy rates for Moderna and Pfizer. The results are likely to raise concerns in the 10 or so countries that have already requested or received hundreds of millions of doses.

In countries like China where there has been a relatively small epidemic (since), Associate Professor James Traor, head of epidemiological modeling at Monash University’s School of Public Health, said Wuhan is contained), Achieving herd immunity through vaccination was “critical”. However, these situational factors also meant that they were not urgent.

“When you have a large vaccination program, there is a concern from a safety standpoint that there may be missed reactions. It would be really difficult to judge in terms of effectiveness, given that there is very little of the Corona virus being transmitted in China at the moment,” Trauer said.

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“They have the opportunity to search for high-quality data [first]And they chose not to. It’s a little worrisome. “

HKU’s Ho said the early rollout risks are low. He said: “Given that we do not know for sure what the actual epidemiological situation in China is … it is logical that there would be precautionary measures if the means allow.”

On Tuesday, about 12 people queued for a vaccine checkup at the Group Office of the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Shenzhen Bao’an, one of the five official vaccination sites in the southern Chinese metropolis.

Ms Sun, who teaches Chinese to foreigners, is among those the authorities hope to impregnate her before the Lunar New Year holiday.

She said she was a little concerned about safety when she got the first shot but had no adverse reaction so is now back a second time. “I decided to take the vaccine myself, it is completely free,” she said.

In line with Sun, a man who declined to be named said he travels a lot within China for work, and so was taking this as a precaution.

“I would encourage people who travel a lot, regardless of inside or outside the country, to get vaccinated. But if you are someone who sits in the office every day, you can decide if it is necessary.”

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