China reaches 40% vaccine coverage, aims for 80% by year-end

Science & Health

In other Chinese vaccine news, Sinovac Biotech becomes the second China-based company to win WHO approval for its shot, and Chinese vaccine makers promise even greater supply for developing countries.

A COVID-19 vaccination site last month in Tangshan, Hebei, China. Image via Xinhua.

Starting last month, the domestic COVID-19 vaccination program in China finally kicked into high gear, reaching about 14 million doses per day, or four times the peak daily rate of the U.S.

  • China is now giving shots even faster, at nearly 20 million per day, per the AP.
  • In less than three weeks, the number of vaccinations that China had recorded leapt from 400 million to 700 million.
  • According to health officials, about 40% of China’s population now has at least one dose, and the new goal is to reach 80% coverage by the end of 2021.
  • Distribution is uneven, with some major cities like the capital, Beijing, already reaching 87% first-dose coverage, and others lagging behind.
  • Sinovac Biotech is now the second Chinese company to ever receive emergency use authorization for a vaccine from the World Health Organization. Last month, Sinopharm became the first.

But are the vaccinations working?

Even with rising vaccination levels, “China can’t begin to ease restrictions like the U.S. even after inoculating a high level of its population because it has no way of analyzing how well its vaccines have worked in its largely COVID-free population,” according to Féng Zǐjiàn 冯子健, an official with the Chinese CDC, Bloomberg reports.

  • Booster shots may be needed to ensure full protection after several months, if Bahrain recommending Pfizer shots at the six-month mark for the Sinopharm-vaccinated is any indication.
  • “China may wait until the first half of 2022 to begin relaxing its restrictions on international travel,” depending on “vaccination rates both domestically and abroad,” infectious disease specialist Zhāng Wénhóng 张文宏 said, per Caixin Global.

Finally, in vaccine diplomacy news:

  • Sinopharm “can provide more than 1 billion COVID-19 doses to countries outside China in the second half of the year,” its chairman said, according to Caixin Global.
  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 “accused some developed countries of ‘hoarding’ COVID-19 vaccines, but praised the BRICS bloc of emerging economies for doing the opposite and offering doses to other nations,” the SCMP reports.
  • Details on the U.S. plan to offer global vaccine assistance were revealed by the White House today. Most of the initial batch of 25 million doses will be distributed through the COVAX initiative, the plan says, and 80 million total will be distributed by the end of June.
  • The U.S. is playing catch-up to China in vaccine aid, as 22 million Chinese doses have already been donated around the world and 256 million purchased doses have been delivered from China, according to the Bridge Beijing tracker.
  • See also, today’s China in Africa podcast via SupChina: China moves ahead with vaccine distribution while COVAX, U.S. efforts falter.