(TAIPEI, Taiwan) — Children as young as 3 will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in China, where 76% of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks.
Recently, at least five provincial governments and cities in the country issued announcements to inform children aged 3-11 that they will have to receive their vaccines.
As China takes new measures to combat small-scale outbreaks, the expansion of vaccination campaigns is a result. After discovering new cases of COVID-19, Gansu in the north west province, heavily dependent upon tourism, shut down all tourist facilities Monday. Due to an epidemic in Inner Mongolia, residents have been asked to remain indoors.
National Health Commission reports that 35 additional cases of local infection were detected in the past 24 hours. Of these, four were located in Gansu. The Inner Mongolia region was home to 19 more cases, while others were scattered throughout the country.
China used quarantines, lockdowns and mandatory testing to combat the disease throughout the pandemic. It has also successfully vaccinated 1.07 billion of its population.
The government is particularly concerned about spreading the contagious Delta variant to travelers. They also want to ensure that the public has been vaccinated before the Beijing Olympics. Participants will need to be separated from others outside the bubble that separates them from spectators who are from other countries.
China’s most widely used vaccines, from Sinopharm and Sinovac, have shown efficacy in preventing severe disease and transmission of the virus, based on public data. However, officials have not yet been able to definitively answer the question of whether they protect against the Delta variant.
The provinces of Fujian, Hubei and Hainan all published notices at the provincial level alerting about new vaccine requirements. Individual cities from Zhejiang and Hunan also made similar announcements.
China in June had approved two vaccines — Sinopharm’s from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinovac — for children age 3-17, but it has only been vaccinating those 12 and older. In August, regulators approved another, Sinopharm’s from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
The vaccines had been approved by China’s government for their use. After that, the foreign governments gave the shots to the children of the countries they were in. Cambodia uses both Sinovac and Sinopharm’s shots in children 6-11. Chilean regulators have approved Sinovac in Chile for children as young at 6. The Sinopharm vaccine was approved by regulators in Argentina for use with children under 3.
Many developed countries were not able to compete with Western pharmaceutical giants Moderna or Pfizer for Chinese vaccines. According to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it has sent more than 1.2 million doses since September.
Even though the vaccine has been widely administered in both the domestic and international markets, parents may not feel confident about it. This is due to the lack of publicly available information.
Wang Lu, who lives in the southern city of Fuzhou in Fujian province, said she isn’t particularly rushing to get her 3-year-old son vaccinated. “I’m just not very clear on the vaccine’s safety profile, so I don’t really want to get him vaccinated, at the very least, I don’t want to be the first,” Wang said.
Sinovac launched an efficacy test with 14,000 participants from multiple countries. The approval of the China drug in China was based upon smaller phase 1 trials and phase 2. Sinopharm’s Beijing shot was also approved based on smaller phase 1 and phase 2 trials. These studies were later published in peer-reviewed journals.
Other parents said they weren’t concerned, given that many other people had already gotten the shot.
Wu Cong, a mom of a 7-year old, said her daughter’s school in Shanghai hadn’t yet notified them of any vaccinations.
“I think this isn’t too different from the flu vaccine, there’s already been so many people vaccinated, so I don’t have too many worries,” said Wu.
Associated PressThis report was contributed by Chen Si, a researcher from Shanghai.