China has fully mobilized its COVID-19 vaccination efforts after overcoming a series of hurdles, with 100 million vaccines administered in five days last month.
China administered more than 700 million doses on Wednesday, half of which were not given until May. The number represents about a third of the pictures distributed in the world.
China received emergency approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) for its Sinopharm vaccine on May 7 – making it one of six vaccines available to the organization – but officials health officials had previously admitted that vaccines developed by China were not very effective.
“It is now under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the vaccination process,” Gao Fu, director of the China Centers for Disease Control, said at a conference in April.
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The first reports claimed that the Sinopharm vaccine had an efficacy of 79%, but foreign trials of another Chinese vaccine, the Sinovac vaccine, found the efficacy to be as low as 50%.
WHO data based on trials in Saudi Arabia, which received doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, appear to support the initial claim of 79% efficacy, allowing China to achieve the aggressive level of vaccination that she posted in recent weeks.
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By early May, China was administering around 7 million doses per day; that number more than doubled last week, with more than 15 million doses administered daily during the last week of May.
Current estimates put the number at around 19 million shots per day, according to Our World in Data’s seven-day moving average.
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“The Communist Party has people in every village, every neighborhood,” said Ray Yip, former national director of the Gates Foundation in China and a public health expert. “This is the draconian part of the system, but it also gives a very powerful mobilization.”
About 87% of the population of Beijing, the capital, have received at least the first injection of a vaccine. The government has even mobilized vaccination buses in areas with high pedestrian traffic, including downtown and shopping malls.
Some local media reports, however, indicate difficulties in acquiring vaccine doses in more remote areas.
Central government officials said on Monday they were working to ensure a more even distribution of supply. While there are distribution issues, Chinese manufacturers are unlikely to have scale issues, analysts and those who have worked in the industry say.
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“What place in the world can compare to China when it comes to construction? How long did it take for our temporary hospitals to be built?” asked Li Mengyuan, who heads pharmaceutical research at Western Securities, a financial company.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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