Sunday , April 11 2021

Chinese urgency for the Covid-19 disappears in the sting drive

BEIJING: Shirley Shi has received three offers to vaccinate against Covid-19 – through her hometown, her Beijing residential area and her office – but the human resources manager is in no hurry.
“I would like to watch out for any detrimental effects first,” said Shi, who like many Chinese seems happy to accept the “wait and see” approach.
Through aggressive locking and mass testing of millions, China has managed to control the virus that first appeared on its soil in late 2019.
But vaccinating the most populous country in the world is a different story.
China is still working to increase production of its four domestically approved vaccines, and has not yet approved a single bullet of foreign production in the global race to brag rights.
For Shi, the problem is not availability, but lack of urgency.
“With China controlling the epidemic in the country and my lack of plans to go abroad in the near future, there is no need for now,” she said.
Chinese experts have hinted that the vaccination rate could be accelerated.
Zhong Nanshan, a respected pulmonologist and a key national figure in the fight against Covid-19, said recently that China plans to immunize 40 percent of its 1.4 billion people by June.
That would require a massive increase in the number of stab wounds in China, where only about 3.5 percent of the population is currently vaccinated.
That’s far behind Britain’s 32.99 stab wounds per 100 people and the U.S. 25.42, according to Our World in Data magazine, a collaboration between Oxford University and a charity.
“The sense of urgency that exists in the West, where vaccination is no less than the expected game changer, is not present in China,” said Mathieu Duchatel, director of the Asian program at the Institut Montaigne, a research center based in Paris.
A slower pace could pose a risk to China by postponing immunity to the herd.
There is no globally accepted standard for the percentage of the population that needs to be stabbed – or to develop the necessary antibodies by infection – to trigger herd immunity against Covid-19.
In November, the medical journal The Lancet estimated that percentage at 60-72 for a 100 percent effective vaccine, while Gao Fu, head of China’s disease control agency, said in comments to China this week that it was 70-80 percent.
China would have to give 10 million doses every day for seven months to reach such thresholds, Chinese infectious disease specialist Zhang Wenhong said at a recent forum. According to Zhong Nanshan, only about 52.5 million doses were administered in late February.
The current pace is “worrying,” Zhang added.
In addition to speeding up production, China has also pledged to ship vaccines abroad as it works to blunt foreign criticism of the virus’s initial spread from its shores.
Chinese companies will export nearly 400 million doses, state media reported, and the government said it provides free vaccines to 53 countries.
The country is also setting up “regional vaccination sites” to make Japanese stings available abroad and is launching an action to shoot overseas Chinese, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Sunday.
China is caught between “both vaccination requirements to achieve herd immunity … and vaccine diplomacy requirements,” said Yanzhong Huang, a global health associate at the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations.
Huang said a delay in herd immunity could mean China lags behind in reopening its borders – which are now largely closed to all but Chinese citizens – while other economies thrive.
That’s why “China could look bad,” he said.
In China, public adoption of the vaccine will also slow down confidence issues in a country with a history of drug safety scandals.
Market research firm Ipsos revealed in January that 85 percent of adults in China said they were ready to get a breakthrough, but it was not clear when they would do so.
At one Beijing clinic, a doctor said the stings were offered to his staff, but many objected until more information was available on the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Chinese manufacturers have yet to release detailed data, unlike foreign rivals.
Chinese vaccination began last year to key groups such as medical staff and government workers who headed foreign countries. This has been extended to other citizens, although mostly in the largest cities.
With its resources and demonstrated ability to mobilize for mass efforts, China could make up for vaccination rates once supplies increase.
Zhang Yutong, an employee of a dental clinic, was among a steady stream of people flocking to a Beijing clinic after her employer arranged the stings.
She told AFP that nearly two-thirds of her colleagues also accepted the offer.
“The epidemic has become a regular part of life. It’s better to have antibodies,” she said.

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