Coronavirus: China passes 500 million doses in rush to meet vaccination target
- Some provinces have a cut-off of June 9 to have the first jab to allow enough time to deliver second shots by the end of the month
- In China, up to 85 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity, says CDC researcher who believes it’s possible this year
The National Health Commission said more than 13.5 million doses were administered nationwide on Sunday, bringing the total number of inoculations since mass immunisation began in December to 510.8 million.
It took 25 days to reach 200 million shots, another 16 to reach 300 million and only nine to achieve 400 million on May 15.
Then, in just seven days another 100 million-plus shots were administered, with a record 17.1 million given on May 20.
An NHC official said previously that China had the capacity to do 20 million shots a day.
Globally 1.65 billion doses have been given and 5 per cent of the population has had the full regimen, according to Our World in Data.
The United States has administered more than 284 million doses, and 39.3 per cent of the population is fully inoculated.
China has not released data on the proportion of the population that is fully inoculated.
Nationwide, the most populous province Guangdong has administered the most vaccines – 40.2 million doses by Friday, or about 31 doses per 100 residents. But the capital Beijing leads the country with about 135 doses administered for every 100 residents. Its downtown area, Dongcheng district, has inoculated 80 per cent of the adult population with two doses.
China has a target of fully inoculating 40 per cent of the population – about 560 million people, by the end of June – prompting some provinces, including Jiangxi, Jilin and Shandong, to cancel new inoculations after June 9 to focus on second doses, which are recommended to be 21 days after the first.
“The first dose inoculation will be suspended between June 10 and 30 so that we can be fully committed to serving people who will receive subsequent doses of the vaccine and safeguarding the effectiveness of the vaccination,” Jiangxi authorities said.
“Everyone should try to receive the first dose of vaccine before June 9.”
Shao Yiming, a researcher with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the fast pace was partly because of a rising willingness among the population after small local outbreaks in Liaoning and Anhui provinces, in addition to a greater vaccine output.
A certain percentage of the population must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity but that percentage depends on how contagious the virus is and how protective the vaccine is. In China’s case, 80-85 per cent of the population would have to have the Covid-19 jabs to establish the immunisation barrier, a target China can achieve within the year, according to Shao.
“Two factors will determine when China can achieve herd immunity: whether we have enough vaccines or how fast we can administer vaccines, which depends on people’s willingness. The vaccine supplies will peak in the middle of the year and the supplies greatly grow in the second half of the year,” Shao said. “We are well positioned to achieve herd immunity in the remaining next six months.”
Shao said studies examining whether to give booster shots to different risk groups were under way, but the vaccines could nevertheless still offer protection, even after immunity weakened.
He said most people still had a large number of immune memory cells when immunity waned, which could still allow a strong response in the face of virus attack.
Shao said a booster shot against a variant of the coronavirus was also possible if the epidemic situation changed.