Tag Archives: vaccines

Vaccination Will Not Eradicate China’s Zero Covid Policy

Map showing biweekly confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people, Jul 23,
2022; Source: Our World in Data

PRESIDENT XI JINPING is far from the first world leader to have a well-publicised exemplary vaccination against Covid-19.

Yet, the remarks by Zeng Yixin, deputy head of the National Health Commission, that the top leadership have all been vaccinated with domestically produced Covid vaccines is notable on several counts.

First, information connected to senior officials’ health is customarily tightly held.

Secondly, Xi’s doubling down on ‘zero-Covid’ is China’s signature response to the pandemic in contrast to most of the world’s acceptance of endemic Covid, trusting a vaccinated population will keep severe infection and mortalities at low rates. Attempting to eradicate Covid through the zero-Covid policy carries high costs, socially from the mass testing, strict quarantine rules and local lockdowns, and economically from the disruption to commerce and manufacturing lockdowns cause.

China’s Covid mortality rate is minuscule compared to other countries, but, until recently, so were its vaccination rates, especially among the vulnerable elderly. These are now officially up to 90% (share of the population that has been double jabbed). However, Sinovac, China’s inactivated-virus vaccine, does not reach the same level of effectiveness as the mRNA vaccines used in the West until three doses, which may explain the timing of Zeng’s announcement about Xi. China’s mRNA vaccine, ArCoV, is in trials.

However, it will reinforce speculation in the West that Beijing is preparing to drop its zero-Covid policy. That seems unlikely if only because Xi’s endorsement has made the policy a political imperative rather than an issue of public health.

The Party has also been using low Covid mortality and case rates as evidence that China’s political system is superior to liberal democracy, a key pillar of its argument for its legitimacy. It would take near-universal vaccination with an mRNA vaccine to reduce mortality and severe infection to sustain that narrative in place of zero Covid.

That is many, many months off. Cai Qi, the Beijing Party Secretary, recently said his city would uphold zero Covid for the next five years.

Arguing that vaccination levels and treatment capabilities have reached a level at which it was no longer necessary to eliminate the virus through zero Covid would also be challenging. The Party’s propagandists would need to find a uniquely Chinese spin on a policy widely adopted by other countries.

Minimising the economic damage of zero Covid is gaining policy attention, especially as headwinds increasingly batter the economy. Dynamic zero-Covid means eradicating new local outbreaks by removing infected cases to isolation centres. Lockdowns are becoming more targeted and quarantine periods shorter. The capital, for example, has managed to avoid the lengthy citywide lockdown that afflicted Shanghai from late March to early June.

However, zero-Covid will remain in place for at least the rest of this year, well into next, and, potentially, well beyond.

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WHO To Provide A Boost To China’s Vaccine Makers

The World Health Organization is expected shortly to approve a Chinese-made vaccine for aid agency use. The vaccine is to combat Japanese encephalitis, a mosquito-borne disease prevalent in Southeast Asia that can be fatal especially in children. Some 50,000 cases a year are reported, with a quarter to a third fatal and a third of survivors suffering long-term disability.

Approval would mark a milestone for China’s pharmaceutical industry. It would be a first such pre-qualification for one of its products, and a gateway to lucrative global markets. The U.N.’s children’s welfare agency, Unicef, alone buys vaccines for 70 million children a year.

The vaccine is made by the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products, a unit of China National Biotec Group (CNBG), which, in turn, is part of the giant SinoPharm. CNBG can boast that every Chinese has been vaccinated by at least one of its products.

In March last year, the WHO certified the national drug approval agency, which opened the door to Chinese manufacturers applying for pre-qualification of their drugs. The Chendgu Insitute did so at the beginning of this year.

The company says that as of the end of 2010 it had already supplied 141 million doses of the vaccine to the region. Pre-qualification will help it expand that number greatly, and provide a boost to China’s fast-growing phama industry, not least by giving it a WHO quality stamp of approval.

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China Conducts Third Round Of Mass Vaccinations Against Polio

China is conducting a third round of mass vaccinations in the wake of the fatal outbreak of polio in July in Hotan Prefecture in Xinjiang near the border with India and Pakistan, the source of the outbreak. The vaccinations started on Nov. 15 and will take a week. They are being given to 3.8 million children in Xinjiang–all under 15 years olds in the outbreak areas and all under fives in the other parts of the province, as well as to 4.5 million 15-39 years olds in southern Xinjiang. They are the same groups that received the second round of vaccinations in late September and early October.

Preventive programs are being conducted in all provinces across the country in an effort to again rid China of polio, which had previously seen its last case in 1999. Eighteen cases of polio have been confirmed in the latest outbreak in Xinjiang, 12 in Hotan prefecture, 5 in Kashgar prefecture and 1 in Bazhou prefecture. Nine cases are children under three years of age and nine young adults between 19 and 31 years old, according to the World Health Organization. One infant has died.

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