China to vaccinate 50 million people for Lunar New Year

Josephine Ma, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 18 2020 08:01 PM

China is ramping up to vaccinate 50 million people against the coronavirus before the start of the peak Lunar New Year travel season early next year.

Officials from centres of disease control and prevention across the country were summoned for a televised training meeting on Wednesday to prepare for mass inoculations of high-priority groups.

Beijing is planning to distribute 100 million doses of the two-dose inactivated vaccines made by Chinese firms Sinopharm and Sinovac, according to a health specialist with knowledge of Wednesday’s meeting. He declined to be named because details of the meeting have not been made public by the government.

The campaign was expected to start soon but start dates could vary among provinces.

However, the officials were told that the first 50 million doses would have to be completed by January 15 and the second by February 5.

The mass campaign aims to reduce the risks of the spread of the disease during the annual week-long holiday, which starts on February 11.

Lunar New Year is a high-risk season for the spread of infectious diseases in China. In 2003, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars, spread to different parts of the county as hundreds of millions of people headed home for the national holiday. Last year, the authorities locked down Wuhan in central China just before the break to prevent a similar spread.

During the training session on Wednesday, the officials were briefed on logistics issues such as venues, transport and registration. They were also taught how to identify, track, record and treat adverse inoculation symptoms.

Those classified high priority arehealth workers, police officers, firefighters, customs officers, cargo handlers, transport and logistics workers, border control officials, nursing home staff, undertakers, sanitation workers and utility workers.

They also include people who need to travel abroad for work or study.

A number of provincial disease control centres have already placed orders for vaccines, including those in Sichuan and Jiangsu, which are paying 200 yuan (US$30.60) per dose, according to online notices.

Sichuan Daily reported last week that 2 million people in the province would be vaccinated before the end of the year, with shots for more high-priority people early next year.
Inoculations for the general public are not expected to start until after Lunar New Year.

Three vaccines by the two Chinese companies were given emergency use authorisation several months ago. Many were shocked when a Sinopharm senior executive revealed in November that about 1 million people in high-priority groups were inoculated before efficacy data was available.

The sluggishness in releasing efficacy data has raised concerns, with more than 100 countries interested in buying the jabs.
Regulators in the United Arab Emirates approved a Sinopharm vaccine last week, saying it had 86 per cent efficacy, but there has been no data from the Chinese side.

In Peru, regulators gave the green light on Wednesday for Sinopharm to resume trials after they were halted over the weekend because of an adverse event.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, where the Sinovac vaccines are in the final phase of trials, Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria said the authorities would release the efficacy data on Wednesday.

Wang Junzhi, deputy head of a vaccine development task force under the State Council, said early this month that China planned to have 600 million doses of inactivated coronavirus vaccines ready before the end of the year.


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