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Low Vaccination Rates Among Elderly In China Is Primary Reason Why Xi Is Sticking To Covid Zero

An elderly man receives a dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination centre, in Hong Kong, China (Image: Reuters File)

An elderly man receives a dose of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine at a community vaccination centre, in Hong Kong, China (Image: Reuters File)

Chinese vaccines were not effective among the elderly, Brazilian data shows but Beijing ignored that. Also it did not prioritize the early vaccination of the elderly

The number of Covid-19 infections in China which have resulted in deaths were mostly among those who were aged over 50s and 80s.

Among those who died most were unvaccinated which means that they were at risk of severe disease.

China is struggling with Covid-19 and lesser number of vaccinations among the elderly and authorities have cited this as a reason behind implementing Covid Zero fiercely, even though this has led to dissent and even protests.

The question arises why China, despite having an abundant supply of homegrown vaccines and vast enforcement power, failed to vaccinate those aged over 60 years of age.

Feng Wang, a sociology professor at the University of California, speaking to news agency Bloomberg said that China missed the opportunity to vaccinate the elderly when the entire world prioritized the vulnerable age group during the first two years of the pandemic.

The Chinese National Health (NHC) commission last week said that about 216 million Chinese aged 60 and older have been fully vaccinated, which accounts for almost 82% of that age group but the numbers are lower when people aged 80 and over are taken into account. Until March only about 50% of people aged over 80 and over were vaccinated.

The shots developed by Chinese companies like Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and others also did not take into account what side-effects it may have on the elderly population.

This was also seen in Brazil, where the government in the initial phase of the pandemic, ordered vaccines from China to curb the deadly outbreak which killed thousands.

Manoel Barral-Netto, an immunologist at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Salvador, Brazil and Daniel Villela, an epidemiologist conducted a study of some one million people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Brazil where they found that elderly people vaccinated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac was only 30% effective at preventing severe disease and 45% effective against death in people over 80.

This was against the 67% and 85% effectiveness respectively, for the Oxford–AstraZeneca jab, according to a report by Nature magazine.

The Chinese Communist Party, NHC and president Xi Jinping, likely, ignored the studies and pushed for Chinese vaccines in order to maintain national pride while putting the lives of millions of elderly at risk.

As a result in Hong Kong and Shanghai, most deaths were reported among the elderly.

In Hong Kong, less than 20% of people aged 80 and above were vaccinated before the latest wave and in Shanghai only 15% of the city’s residents over 80 were vaccinated until the first half of April.

The Bloomberg News report also pointed out that researchers in Shanghai’s Fudan University believe that an unchecked omicron wave would still cause about 1.6 million deaths.

China is now resorting to giving cash vouchers (worth $150), free cooking oil, eggs, milk and other groceries to incentivise vaccination among the elderly.
(with inputs from Bloomberg)

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first published:May 18, 2022, 13:51 IST