China is vaccinating almost 14 million people a day

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Medical workers collect swabs from residents following new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at a nucleic acid test site in Luan, Anhui province, China May 14, 2021. cnsphoto via REUTERS

China is vaccinating almost 14 million people a day, the fastest pace in the world, as the country races to protect its covid-19 advantage in the face of major Western nations reopening their economies.

The ramp up in shots is being helped by a flare-up of cases in the eastern province of Anhui and northeastern region of Liaoning. Videos on social media showed citizens rushing to get their vaccines, with long queues at inoculation sites despite heavy rain. Hefei, Anhui’s capital city, administered 360,000 doses on Friday, the most in a single day for the hub of 10 million people, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Many nations in Asia, China included, are struggling to combat vaccine hesitation. Some people have been wooed into a sense of complacency due to the region’s early success in containing the virus while others simply don’t trust the safety or efficacy of the vaccines available. However, recent outbreaks in countries like Singapore and Taiwan are testing that reluctance as harsher lockdown measures are imposed, bringing into clearer focus the understanding that being vaccinated can help stop serious illness.

Beijing is loath to lose the advantage it’s built up over the U.S. and other major Western economies with its successful containment of the pathogen, and has added pressure through things like calling for mandatory vaccination among state-owned enterprise employees and Communist Party members.

The escalation of shots in China — figures from the National Health Commission show 13.7 million vaccines were administered on Friday — means the country is now closer to its target of vaccinating 40% of its population, or at least delivering 560 million doses, by the end of June. As of Sunday, some 393 million doses had been given, with 210 million of those occurring over the past month, a sign of the accelerating roll out, official data show. According to the World Health Organization, China can now administer 20 million doses a day.

“Don’t hesitate, get vaccinated,” Xinhua News Agency says on its official WeChat account. “The fact that new infected people are not vaccinated is undoubtedly a wake-up call to all — to build an immunization barrier, vaccination is not an option but a must.”

It’s estimated China will have 900 million to 1 billion people vaccinated by next year, when herd immunity is expected to be reached, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, George Fu Gao, said in a recent interview.

China has enforced some of the harshest approaches in the world in terms of putting whole regions into lockdown and people into quarantine, even when only cases in the single digits are detected. Because of the latest outbreak, schools have been halted in the northern coastal city Yingkou in Liaoning while people are banned from leaving their residential compound in certain regions of Anhui.

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