• By The Financial District


China’s success at controlling the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a population that has seemed almost reluctant to get vaccinated.

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So it is accelerating its inoculation campaign by offering incentives — free eggs, store coupons, and discounts on groceries and merchandise — to those getting a shot, Huizhong Wu reported for the Associated Press (AP).

After a slow start, China is now giving millions of shots a day. On March 26 alone, it administered 6.1 million shots. A top government doctor, Zhong Nanshan, has announced a June goal of vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people. The challenge lies partly in the sheer scale of the effort and the need to convince a population that currently feels safe from infections.

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China may need to vaccinate at least 1 billion people to achieve that, said Wang Huaqing, a top immunology official with China’s Center for Disease Control, in an interview with state media this week. As of early April, roughly 34 million people had received two shots and about 65 million got one dose.

For now, in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the government has relied mostly on sustained messaging and freebies to convince people to get vaccinated. Shopping malls have offered points at stores or coupons. A temple in Beijing offered free entry to anyone showing proof of vaccination. Shanghai is using buses in its campaign to set up mobile vaccination points. And then there are the free eggs.

“Good news. Starting from today, residents 60 years old and above who have gotten their first shot are eligible for five ‘jin’ (2.5 kilograms or 5 1/2 pounds) of eggs. First come, first serve,” said a poster by a city-run health center in Beijing.

Gao Fu, the head of the CDC, said last weekend that China is considering various strategies such as mixing different vaccines to try to increase effectiveness. He also admitted that Chinese vaccines are less effective.

Health & lifestyle: Woman running and exercising over a bridge near the financial district.

Outside experts say China could eventually deploy other, more effective vaccines, such as the Pfizer or Moderna shots.

“The best thing to do is to actually allow the use of other better vaccines and make them to be available to the Chinese, but that’s probably very challenging politically,” said Jin Dong-yan, an expert on vaccines at the University of Hong Kong’s medical school. Chinese drugmaker Fosun Pharmaceutical Group has partnered with Germany’s BioNTech to sell the Pfizer vaccine in China.

However, it has only been approved in Hong Kong and Macao, special territories in China with their own regulatory agencies. A clinical trial for mainland approval is underway.


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