China to inoculate frontline workers first with COVID-19 vaccines

K J M Varma
·2-min read

Beijing, Dec 19 (PTI) China will begin its COVID-19 inoculation programme by first vaccinating some key priority groups, including those involved in medical treatment and disease control, within the winter-spring period, before starting a mass roll out, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Saturday.

The vaccination programme will also cover those who plan to work or study in counties and regions with medium or high risks of exposure to the virus, Cui Gang, an official with NHC's disease control department, told reporters.

This will help relieve the pressure on China in preventing and controlling imported COVID-19 cases, and lower the risks of domestic outbreaks of the epidemic, the official said.

In a two-step vaccination drive, the vaccines will be first given to the priority groups, including those engaged in handling imported cold-chain products, and people working in sectors such as port inspection and quarantine, aviation, public transport, fresh market, medical treatment and disease control, said Cui.

There is no word yet on the mass roll out of the vaccine programme and no announcement has been made about the government approval of various vaccines under trial.

China has roped in more than a dozen countries, including Brazil, to conduct the final phase trials of its COVID-19 vaccines. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have approved a vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned Sinopharm.

Chinese officials say the coronavirus has been largely controlled in the country and herd immunity can be built with gradual roll out of the vaccination programme covering most of its population.

The health officials said over a million people had been given vaccines under emergency use provision. The officials, who took part in Saturday’s press briefing, said no major side effects were reported during the trials.

China has been focusing on developing five types of vaccines. In total, 11 vaccine candidates are at different stages of testing at home and abroad, Yang Sheng, Deputy Director of the National Medical Products Administration's drug registration bureau told media earlier.

China has joined COVAX, an international vaccine alliance. The World Health Organization (WHO) has said nine candidate vaccines, including two from China, are currently being evaluated for inclusion in the COVAX Facility.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, an international vaccine alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO. Its aim is to accelerate the development and manufacture of vaccine.

Zheng Zhongwei, head of China's vaccine development task force, said China's annual capacity to make COVID-19 vaccines was expected to reach 610 million doses this year and one billion doses by 2021, according to official media reports here.

The novel coronavirus which originated from China’s Wuhan city last year has claimed 1.6 million lives and infected more than 75 million people globally. PTI KJV MRJ MRJ