Coronavirus: Chinese province gives free vaccines to priority groups in push for herd immunity

Guo Rui
·3-min read

The southern Chinese province of Guangdong is offering free Covid-19 vaccinations for people in high-priority groups as it reinforces its defences against the disease and tries to build herd immunity.

Duan Yufei, head of the Guangdong Health Commission, said on Wednesday the inoculation campaign was under way but people still needed to observe social distancing rules and good hygiene because vaccines alone would not be enough to end the pandemic.

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has infected more than 78 million people worldwide since it was first detected in China a year ago. It is under control within the country and there have been just over 2,000 confirmed cases in Guangdong overall.

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Duan said the province had made steady progress in its inoculation plans.

“As of December 22, a total of 180,000 people have been vaccinated in Guangdong province and so far there have been no adverse events,” he said.

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He said people in priority groups would be vaccinated free and in a programme to be completed before the Lunar New Year, which falls on February 11.

“We will vaccinate as many people in the priority groups as possible but [we should also] reinforce the responsibility of the public to get vaccinated,” Duan said, adding that broader use of the vaccines would depend on regulatory approval and availability.

Guangdong officials have identified priority groups as cold chain food handlers, quarantine workers, border control and customs officials, cross-border truckers, medical personnel, grass-roots epidemic officials and public transport staff. The plan also covers people who need to travel abroad for work or study.

Deng Huihong, head of the Guangdong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the vaccination plan excluded people who were aged below 18 or above 59; individuals who were allergic to previous vaccinations, pregnant women and the chronically ill.

According to provincial government documents, three vaccines developed in China that have been approved for emergency use are priced at 200 yuan (US$30.55) per dose but each person would require two doses.

Vaccination programmes are also under way for priority groups in other parts of the country, with 50 million people expected to have the shots before the Lunar New Year.

Chinese officials have said that they hope the vaccination of priority groups will help reduce the risk of infection during the annual holiday, which is a high season for the spread of infectious diseases.

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Tong Chun, a hardware factory worker in Dongguan, said she was prepared to have the injections before she returned home to the central province of Hunan for the holiday because she was concerned that disease control measures would not be strictly applied there.

However, Tong, who is not in a priority group, said she was worried that she would not be able to afford the vaccines.

But not everyone is keen to take a shot.

In Guangzhou, Yuan Peng, a 23-year-old driver for the ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, said he did not want to get vaccinated even if it was free.

“I’m worried that the vaccine is not safe enough, and there have been many accidents with domestic vaccines,” Yuan said.

“Also, the overall situation of disease prevention and control in China is fine now so I don’t feel the need to take it.”

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