Chinese health officials began advising the public to wear masks indoors and outdoors on Friday in a bid to keep tighter control on the COVID-19 outbreak there, even as daily new cases decline for their third straight day.
China’s COVID-19 vaccination program hit an important milestone on Friday as half of the country’s 1.4 billion people have now been fully vaccinated. The program initially struggled to get going due to the government’s incredible effectiveness at defeating the outbreak early on without vaccines.
The National Health Commission (NHC) of the People’s Republic of China reported on Friday that a total of 1.83 billion shots had been administered thus far. NHC spokesperson Mi Feng told reporters that as a result, more than 777 million Chinese have now been totally vaccinated against COVID-19.
The country has seven COVID-19 vaccines in use: five require two doses for full protection, while one is a single-shot vaccine and another requires three doses. However, some more vulnerable parts of the population could soon be receiving a third dose of SinoVac’s vaccine, one of the two-dose vaccines, as recent trials have found it to provide boosted immune responses.
China’s massive vaccination campaign is giving out some 20 million shots per day, but it got off to a slow start due to the country’s effectiveness at combating the COVID-19 outbreak without the use of vaccines. As Sputnik reported, many Chinese people simply have not felt the urgency to get protected from COVID-19 because the outbreak there has been so small – just 95,000 cases and less than 4,700 deaths, compared to more than 36 million cases and more than 620,000 deaths in the United States, a country one-fourth China’s size.
As a result, officials had to invent a number of incentives to encourage people to get their shots, including coupons for food or entertainment, cash payments, and the holding of community sharing sessions in which vaccinated people talked about their experiences. While many employers have required their employees to get vaccinated, many have also provided paid time off to do so.
While some local governments attempted to compel citizens to get vaccinated with bans on public participation or other schemes, the NHC has repeatedly urged that the vaccination program be “informed, consented and voluntary.”
Friday’s report means that China is roughly on par with the United States, which has fully vaccinated 50.4% of its population and given 59.2% at least one shot, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the US’ vaccination campaign has slowed considerably from its April high of 4.4 million people per day, with a seven-day average on Tuesday of just 568,000 shots per day.
Despite the impressive numbers, the recent outbreak of Delta variant cases in China has pushed the vaccination campaign into even higher gear.
Wang Huaqing, who heads the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization program, told reporters Friday that “children are indispensable to herd immunity,” which will likely require 85% of the Chinese population to be fully vaccinated.
“Both adults and children can be the source of infection. We should strengthen the management of children,” Wang said, noting that children are not immune from severe or deadly cases of the virus. Some 60 million Chinese children have already been vaccinated, with the lowest age allowed to receive shots being 12.
Both the US and China are experiencing their worst outbreaks since the winter, but unlike the United States, China isn’t relying almost solely on vaccination to protect its population from the virus.
According to the Global Times, some 48 cities in 18 Chinese provinces have detected cases of COVID-19 since the latest outbreak began on July 20, most of which have enacted extensive lockdowns on the model of those used in Hubei Province in early 2020 to contain the initial outbreak of COVID-19. With residents largely confined to their homes, medical staff are conducting mass testing to identify every single case of the virus and supply warehouses are working round-the-clock to deliver food, medicine, and other necessities to residents’ front doors.
As a result, just 1,282 cases have been detected since July 20, and 36 of the 48 cities with cases haven’t seen a new case in five days and of the 101 new cases detected on Thursday, 47 were domestically transmitted and 52 came into the country from abroad, He Qinghua, a senior NHC official, said at a Friday press conference.
Also unlike the US, China has balanced its domestic vaccination program with massive vaccine exports. By the end of June, 500 million Chinese vaccines had been shipped abroad, most of them made by Sinopharm. Most of those have been sent to the world’s poorer nations, including more than 27 million doses to 40 countries in Africa, where just 1.5% of the continent’s population has been vaccinated.