China rolls out one-dose vaccine amid new round of Covid-19 infections

Vaccination rates broke a record on Monday (May 17) when more than 15 million doses were administered in a day. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING - China is speeding up its inoculation drive against Covid-19 by rolling out its first one-dose vaccine amid a second round of infections since the start of the year.

Fears of a coronavirus resurgence emerged in the world's most populous country earlier this month after Anhui and Liaoning provinces reported locally transmitted infections on May 14.

They were the first locally transmitted cases since April when a Covid-19 cluster emerged in Yunnan in south-western China, linked to an outbreak in neighbouring Myanmar.

Xinhua news agency reported then that Yunnan had 88 confirmed cases as at April 10.

The latest locally transmitted infections were reported after two employees at a photography studio in Anhui returned from a port city in Liaoning. Both workers were diagnosed on May 13.

Steps were taken quickly to curb the spread in both provinces upon the discovery of locally transmitted cases, authorities told the press a day later.

Authorities imposed lockdown measures swiftly, banning people and vehicles from leaving Bayuquan - a district in Liaoning in north-eastern China, about five times the size of Tampines.

The National Health Commission sent an expert team to Anhui to guide the province's prevention and control efforts, including epidemiological investigation and source tracing.

Amid a second round of local transmissions, China rolled out its first single-dose vaccine called Convidecia in at least seven provincial-level regions, including capital city Beijing, raising hope that more people will be vaccinated, the Communist Party's English language newspaper Global Times reported last Thursday (May 20).

The vaccine is developed by the Chinese military and Tianjin-based biotech company CanSino Biologics.

An official in Zhejiang province, where the Ad5-nCoV vaccine has been rolled out was quoted saying that the one-shot vaccine has been popular. He cited a health centre which vaccinated about 200 people on May 12, saying that "apart from those who received a second dose of a different vaccine, almost all the rest... chose the one-dose vaccine".

The flare-up in local infections triggered a spike in China's inoculation rates after it was revealed that none of the 18 new cases so far in Anhui and Liaoning had been vaccinated as at Wednesday, according to the South China Morning Post.

Vaccination rates broke a record on Monday (May 17) when more than 15 million doses were administered in a day. About 450 million doses had been administered across China as of Wednesday (May 19).

Some 100 million doses were taken in the last eight days, according to health officials, outpacing China's initial rate of achieving 200 million vaccinations in 25 days.

Overall, however, the number of vaccinated people so far remains below Beijing's aim of inoculating 40 per cent of its 1.4 billion people by June, despite the government's efforts.

Incentives, ranging from free cooking oil to cash vouchers, have been dangled in front of Chinese citizens in a move to get them vaccinated.

But fear of the vaccines' side effects and confidence that China has overcome Covid-19 have been cited by media reports to explain residents' inertia to sign up for vaccinations.

China has kept the pandemic largely under control for more than a year, and imported cases form the bulk of its Covid-19 patients.

Currently, the national average stands at about 30 doses for every 100 people, with disparities across the country.

Before the latest round of infections, vaccination rates in Anhui and Liaoning saw fewer than 20 doses administered for every 100 people. Beijing has vaccinated 58 per cent of its population, or 12.7 million people.

China has reported 102,822 Covid-19 cases to date, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. It has been regarded as the epicentre of the pandemic since the first cases of infection were identified in Wuhan in central China.

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