China domestic vaccination campaign roars ahead, now at four times peak U.S. daily rate

Science & Health

True to form for the world’s most populous nation, China is now administering eye-popping numbers of COVID-19 vaccinations. In a span of nine days, 100 million people in China recently received a shot.

A COVID-19 vaccination site in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, on May 18. Photo via Xinhua.

After a surprisingly slow start earlier this year, China’s domestic COVID-19 vaccination program has finally kicked into high gear. And true to form for the world’s most populous nation and leading industrial powerhouse, the numbers are as eye-popping as you might expect:

  • Almost 14 million people per day are getting a dose, Bloomberg reports, about four times faster than the daily rate of the U.S. at its peak of 3.38 million per day last month.
  • In a span of nine days, 100 million people in China recently received a shot, Xinhua reports.
  • China is on track to widely surpass the goal it set two months ago to vaccinate half a billion people by the end of June. More than half of the almost 400 million shots that China has administered to date were given in the past month, per Bloomberg.

What changed?

Most important, presumably, is supply — but there is limited public information on the exact capacity of China’s vaccine manufacturers.

Other factors could include:

But China probably won’t reach herd immunity

China won’t have a majority of its 1.4 billion people vaccinated until later this year, and even then, the threshold for herd immunity against more contagious variants is now considered to be potentially upwards of 80 percent.

  • If some Chinese vaccines are less effective than the mRNA vaccines that the U.S. is using — as China’s CDC director appeared to admit last month, and as an outbreak in partially Sinopharm-vaccinated Seychelles seems to confirm — then the threshold for community immunity would be even higher. The UAE announced today that it will offer a 6-month booster shot for Sinopharm recipients “amid concerns about an insufficient antibody response,” AP reports.
  • But new outbreaks will be less alarming if much of the populace has at least partial protection. The vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech, another of the five that China is using in its vaccination program, has been shown to protect against virtually all severe disease where it has been deployed in Indonesia, Chile, and Brazil.
  • More effective mRNA vaccines will likely come to China as soon as later this year. A late-stage trial for one Chinese-made mRNA shot will begin in Mexico later this month, and Fosun Pharma and BioNTech recently struck a $200 million deal to produce mRNA shots for the Chinese market.

For the world, vaccine diplomacy appears to be entering a new stage. But is Biden’s announcement of more international supply too little, too late for the U.S. to compete? See more: