Hospitals across the country have almost everything needed for mass vaccination: millions of doses. Store them in the refrigerator. Medical staff can manage it after training.
That’s everything, except for proof that any vaccines are effective.
Unlike Western competitors, Chinese companies do not disclose data from late-stage clinical trials. These data cannot prove whether their vaccines are effective, and Chinese regulators have not yet formally approved them.
This has not stopped local governments across the country, which have already embarked on an ambitious vaccination campaign. The goal is to vaccinate 50 million people, about the population of Colombia, by mid-February (before the Chinese New Year holiday), and thousands of people are expected to travel by then.
The campaign will focus on China’s so-called “key priority groups”, including doctors, hotel staff, border inspectors, Food storage and transportation workers and travelers. Erene Zhang, a 24-year-old student, was vaccinated in Hangzhou on December 22, and then went to the UK for graduate studies next month.
Ms. Zhang said: “Because my situation is very urgent, all the students around me who go abroad have accepted it, so I think it is relatively reliable.
Even before this campaign, more than one million people had lined up for vaccination, which puzzled scientists. They warned that taking unproven vaccines would bring potential health risks. At present, their efforts are becoming wider and wider, and they are being promoted in a similar temporary way.
In southern Guangdong Province, there are 180,000 people, most of whom are food workers As of December 22, inoculations for storage, transportation, quarantine facilities and border inspections have been carried out. In the eastern Zhejiang province, 281,800 people have been vaccinated. Wuhan said the government has designated 48 vaccination clinics for its emergency plan, which began on Thursday.
China, which is testing five vaccines in phase three trials, has not yet provided any information in the final phase to prove the effectiveness of these vaccines. In contrast, the United States and the United Kingdom only began vaccination after reviewing and approving such trial data.
Instead, Chinese officials issued extensive statements with few details, assuring the public that the vaccine is safe and effective. Three of these vaccines are only approved for emergency use.Last month, Chairman Liu Jingzhen Sinopharm (Sinopharm), a state-owned vaccine manufacturer that has vaccinated two vaccines in later trials, said that so far, about 1 million people have been vaccinated without any adverse reactions, and “only a few people have Mild symptoms”.
Data and approval are expected to be completed within a few weeks. Despite the encouraging signs, there are also some warnings.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said this month that the vaccine produced by Sinopharm is effective, although they rarely provide details on reaching the conclusion. Turkey stated that the vaccine produced by Sinovac, a private vaccine manufacturer in Beijing, has an effective rate of 91.25%. This finding is based on preliminary results from a small clinical trial. Brazilian officials said that the Sinovac vaccine is more than 50% effective, but delayed the release of detailed data.
The scale and speed of vaccination are the product of a centralized public health infrastructure in an authoritarian system. During the crisis, China demonstrated how to mobilize thousands of workers to reach millions of people.It tested 11 million people Within ten days in Wuhan.
Chinese vaccine manufacturers have been working hard to increase production to meet the country’s own needs and global exports. The Chinese government has promised to produce 610 million doses by the end of this year and expects to produce more than 1 billion doses next year.
RAND senior policy researcher and epidemiologist Jennifer Huang Bouey said: “When they say 50 million, they might do it.” “The question is how much money will it cost? What is the impact.”
It took several months of preparation to go all out. Since June, hospitals in Guangdong Province have started building vaccination clinics, equipped them with refrigerators, and installed refrigerated storage systems.
Sinopharm held an exercise this month. During the trial run, the staff put vaccines and ice packs in the boxes, while company officials tracked the temperature of the vaccines in real time during the delivery.
China has some advantages in promotion. Unlike Pfizer vaccines, the vaccines produced by Sinopharm and Sinopharm are based on traditional methods using inactivated or weakened forms of the virus, making them easier to store and distribute.
However, as the American experience has shown, there are many pitfalls.in In the United States, more than 2 million people have just received the Covid-19 vaccine, which is far below the 20 million target set by the government this month. The hospital must prepare the frozen footage and find employees to provide services to the clinic.
As China develops, local officials have been investigating the number of people in “key priority groups.” According to a government document in Xinchang County, Zhejiang Province, they must “make sure there are no omissions.”
Just two months ago, it seemed that demand might exceed supply. The eastern city of Yiwu provided 500 doses, which were used up within a few hours.
Student Ms. Zhang said She was hesitant to get the vaccine at first because everyone around her told her to “wait and see.” Despite this, she still tried to register in Yiwu, but failed to get a seat.
Then, on December 21, Ms. Zhang heard that Hangzhou will start her own vaccination campaign. That night, she took a high-speed train and signed a lease with a local friend because the local authorities required proof of residence. The next day, she paid $35 and got an injection from Sinovac.
Ms. Zhang said that in the hospital, there are four to five people waiting to be vaccinated. This process took an hour, which included registration, shooting and waiting for 30 minutes to see if there were any adverse reactions.
She said: “Everything is very calm and orderly.” Before she left, the doctor warned her: Do not take a bath. Do not stay up all night. Do not eat foods that irritate the stomach.
The government emphasized that vaccination activities are voluntary and people will need to pay for vaccination. Huang Yanzhong, a senior researcher for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Chinese health care expert, pointed out that two doses of treatment may cost about US$70, which is out of reach for the rural poor.
China may also have problems persuading people to take vaccines. Scientists warn that a lack of transparency may raise concerns about buying new vaccines, especially in an industry with a history of scandals.
Tao Lina, a vaccine expert and former immunologist at the Shanghai Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that he knew several medical staff who refused to get the vaccine. Mr. Tao said: “In the eyes of doctors, any drug that fails the Phase 3 clinical trial is unreliable.”
Mr. Tao received a vaccine from Sinopharm on Monday. He said that he was confident in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and responded to officials’ comments that there were no reports of serious adverse reactions. But he added that the two companies can do a better job of communicating information.
He said: “If you say it is safe, then you should provide all kinds of evidence to prove that it is safe.”
Hminem Zhang, a 27-year-old salesperson at an Internet company, said that he wanted to get the vaccine because he was on a business trip and was worried that if the virus spreads again, he would shoot it out. But he was worried about made in China because “not many people received it,” he said.
“I want to wait another month or two to release some official data,” said Mr. Zhang, based in Chongqing City in the southwest. “Then, if there is no news of any side effects, I will get help.”
Liu Yi, Wang Humber and Chen Huilin made contributions.