China targets teens in coronavirus vaccine drive in race for herd immunity

·3-min read

China has started to offer Covid-19 vaccines to teenagers, with some provinces aiming to inoculate children as young as 12 by the end of September.

Eleven provinces, including Guangxi, Hubei, Hainan and Anhui, will start to inoculate minors aged 15-17 years this month and those aged 12-14 years in August, according to targets cited at a national teleconference on Monday.

So far, only inactivated vaccines by Sinopharm and Sinovac have been approved for emergency use for those aged 3 years and older in China.

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Sinopharm has completed early stage human trials among more than 60,000 people aged 3 to 17 using the same vaccine given to adults.

The company said last month that the doses were safe and the participants developed specific neutralising antibodies “without significant difference to the adults”.

The vaccine is also being tested among 900 children and teens in the United Arab Emirates.

Sinovac conducted an early stage human trial among 550 participants and found similar results.

China has achieved its goal to inoculate 40 per cent of the population, roughly 560 million people, by June 30, and aims to vaccinate about 80 per cent of the population by the end of the year.

Some public health experts have said that given the efficacy of the vaccines and transmissibility of the coronavirus, the country will need 80 to 85 per cent of the total population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

Some provinces and cities have announced detailed schedules for inoculation.

Tianmen in Hubei province said schools would arrange for teenagers to get their shots from this month.

In all, 11 provinces and municipalities, including Hubei, would start inoculating 15-17-year-olds in July and 12-14-year-olds a month later, Tianmen authorities said.

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Guangxi’s health commission said the autonomous region would start vaccinating 12-17-year-olds in the second half of the year based on the “overall plan of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and the State Council”.

All those eligible in the age group were expected to be fully inoculated by the end of October, the commission said.

“At present, the overall situation of Covid-19 in China is stable, but the global epidemic is still at a high level, increasing the pressure of our work to prevent outbreaks from imported cases,” the commission said.

“Vaccination against the new coronavirus in people under 18 years of age is an important part of building an immune barrier for the whole population.”

So far, only inactivated vaccines by Sinopharm and Sinovac have been approved for emergency use for those aged 3 years and older in China. Photo: DPA
So far, only inactivated vaccines by Sinopharm and Sinovac have been approved for emergency use for those aged 3 years and older in China. Photo: DPA

Deng Qiuyun, deputy director of the Guangxi Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunisation programme, told China National Radio that guardians of the children would have to give their consent and accompany them to get the injections.

It would also be an opportunity for parents or guardians who had not been vaccinated to take the jabs and improve the vaccination rate, Deng said.

Disease control authorities in Fuyang in the southeast province of Anhui said those aged 15 to 17 years old could have their shots now.

“Recently, the state and province have once again issued new tasks for the vaccination against Covid-19, which is to inoculate 91.2 per cent of the residents of 12 years old and above,” Fuyang Daily reported.

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