Health experts in China say their country is lagging in its coronavirus vaccination rollout because it has the disease largely under control, but plans to inoculate 40 percent of its population by June.
Zhong Nanshan, the leader of a group of experts attached to the National Health Commission, said China had inoculated 3.56 percent of its population of 1.4 billion so far. He was speaking at an online forum on Tuesday between US and Chinese medical experts hosted by Tsinghua University and the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
Israel has vaccinated over 90 percent of its people, while the US has vaccinated about 22 percent of its population.
Chinese experts say the country has enough vaccine supply for its population, although it has pledged to provide close to half a billion doses abroad. “The current vaccination pace is very low due to outbreak control (being) so good in China, but I think the capacity is enough,” said Zhang Wenhong, an infectious diseases expert based in Shanghai.
Developers of China’s four approved vaccines have said they could manufacture up to 2.6 billion doses by the end of this year. Still, vaccinating China’s massive population will be a daunting task. China had administered 52.52 million doses as of February 28, Zhong said.
Even at the rate of vaccinating 10 million people a day, it would take roughly seven months to vaccinate 70 percent of its population, Zhang said.
All of them acknowledged the complex task of vaccinating the world’s population, pointing to the slowness in the global rollout of vaccines.
It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year.Director of WHO’s emergencies program Michael Ryan
“Demand will outstrip supply for many months, and unless there is more manufacturing … for years,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also cautioned against expecting a quick return to normal. The head of China’s Center for Disease Control, Gao Fu, predicted that life could return to an “approximate normal” in summer next year.
Gao and other Chinese experts urged more US-China cooperation. Gao called on the US and China to cooperate on COVAX, an initiative to distribute vaccines more fairly across the developing world. “Let’s work together,” he said.
It is unrealistic to think the world will be done with the COVID-19 pandemic by the end of the year, the World Health Organization warned.
The world’s singular focus right now should be to keep transmission of COVID-19 as low as possible, said Dr Michael Ryan, director of WHO’s emergencies program.
“It will be very premature, and I think unrealistic, to think that we’re going to finish with this virus by the end of the year,” Ryan said. “But I think what we can finish with, if we’re smart, is the hospitalizations, the deaths and the tragedy associated with this pandemic.”
Ryan said WHO was reassured by emerging data that many of the licensed vaccines appear to be helping curb the virus’ explosive spread.
“If the vaccines begin to impact not only on death and not only on hospitalization, but have a significant impact on transmission dynamics and transmission risk, then I believe we will accelerate toward controlling this pandemic.”
WHO’s director-general, meanwhile, said it was “regrettable” that younger and healthier adults in some rich countries are being vaccinated before at-risk health workers in developing countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said immunizations provided by the UN-backed effort COVAX began this week in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, but lamented that this was happening only three months after countries such as Britain, the US and Canada began vaccinating their own populations.
“Countries are not in a race with each other,” he said. “This is a common race against the virus. We are not asking countries to put their own people at risk. We are asking all countries to be part of a global effort to suppress the virus everywhere.”
SOURCE: Shine News