Shanghai has become the first Chinese mainland city to offer Covid-19 vaccines to foreign expats, local authorities have revealed.
Foreigners who meet the age requirements can voluntarily apply for the vaccine from Monday.
The Shanghai municipal government announced the plan on Tuesday, saying expats would have to bear the costs and risks associated with the vaccine.
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Foreigners who want to be vaccinated can book appointments through the Health Cloud, an app run by local health authorities. They will be then informed via text messages of the date, time, and location of their vaccination, the government announced.
Shanghai authorities said they would provide the two-dose inactivated vaccines although it is not clear which brand it would be.
Foreign nationals who have joined Shanghai’s public medical insurance scheme will be treated the same as Chinese nationals, accessing the vaccines free of charge. Those who are not covered by the insurance scheme will be charged 100 yuan (US$15.30) per dose.
Authorities urged the potential recipients of the vaccine to pay close attention to their health within 14 days of inoculation. They warned anyone with an adverse response to the vaccine to go straight to a hospital.
Self-employed Shanghai-based American expat Michael Goffman, 41, said he supported the initiative because he believed that “any person living in China should have access to the vaccine if they wanted to take it”.
“There are reports of people dying after getting the vaccine but I haven’t seen any evidence saying that the Sinovac [a Beijing-based pharmaceutical developer] vaccine caused any deaths, just sensational media reports. Until evidence is presented otherwise, I don’t have any big concerns about it,” the digital content creator told the South China Morning Post.
“However, based on early data, the efficacy rate of the Sinovac vaccine appears to be slightly lower than some of the other vaccines. Again, it’s really too early to know for certain, but I’ll definitely be looking into taking the vaccine with the highest efficacy rate,” he said.
Goffman said he would probably not be applying for the inoculation until travel was possible.
“When travel starts to open up, I will most likely get inoculated. Right now, there are very few cases in China and I don’t plan to leave this year so there’s no hurry,” he said.
Goffman said he was not opposed to paying the small fee to receive the vaccine, saying he was more concerned that it was made mandatory for everyone to be vaccinated.
“I will probably take one of the vaccines eventually, but I think everyone should have the right to decide for themselves according to their own concerns and physical condition,” he said.
Ishiwata Tanni, a 31-year-old Japanese national who is a member of the council at Shanghai Cao Peng Music Center, said he did not believe it was necessary to get the shot immediately.
“The quality of domestically-made vaccines should be no problem but I still prefer to adopt a wait-and-see attitude,” Ishiwata told the Post.
“When the time is mature, I will definitely take the vaccine.”
But Eli Beck, a 63-year-old Israeli expert in the agricultural technology sector, said he would register to get inoculated.
“I believe it is the duty of each and everyone to fight Covid-19 by all means possible, and since I meet so many people, travel often within China, to give speeches or [do] agri-consulting, it is my duty too to be protected and protect others,” Beck said.
“I believe that most expats who stay in China love this country and need to have the same protection as locals get from the authorities.”
By March 21, Shanghai had seen 882,000 of the city’s 25 million residents receiving the two-jab vaccine, with 2.6 million doses given, according to the city’s municipal health authority.
Today began the vaccination of the city’s residents aged between 60 and 75, with authorities saying they would launch a vaccination plan for those aged 76 pending the progress of the inoculation drive.
Zhang Wenhong, head of Shanghai’s Covid-19 clinical expert team, said at least 70 per cent of the population should be inoculated to reach the target needed to achieve herd immunity.
“Some people ask me what if I don’t receive the vaccine? I told them people not having inoculated will suffer losses,” Zhang, who took the vaccine three months ago, told news portal Thepaper.cn on Wednesday.
He said the adverse effects from the Covid-19 vaccines in China to date were acceptable.
“In this age with the advanced self-media sector, if there is a serious adverse response case, won’t it be known to everybody soon?” Zhang was quoted as saying.
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