A coronavirus vaccine doesn’t need to be administered to everyone in China right now — only front-line workers and high-risk populations, the country’s top medical official said this weekend.
Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, made the statement at a vaccine summit in the city of Shenzhen on Saturday — pointing to an increased confidence among policy-makers of their ability to keep the virus at bay, according to the state-run news agency China News Service.
“Since the first wave of COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China has already survived the impact of COVID-19 several times,” he said, according to state-run news agency China News Service.
Gao pointed to “risks and benefits” of mass vaccination, like cost and potential side effects. That could change, he said, if the country sees another serious outbreak.
Any potential vaccine would be prioritized for medical workers, people working in high-risk environments such as schools, restaurants or cleaning services, and Chinese nationals working overseas in COVID-19 hotspots, he said.
The move sets China apart from many Western governments — where plans are in the works to introduce mass public vaccination drives, CNN reported.
For the most part, China’s reported virus numbers have remained low since the spring — though the northeastern Jilin province saw a flare-up in May, Beijing experienced an outbreak in June, and Urumqi, the provisional capital of the expansive northwestern region of Xinjiang, saw a cluster in July.
Gao claimed those outbreaks point to China’s successful containment measures.
“The facts have proven that we have several magic weapons to respond to the epidemic,” he said, according to China News Service.
China’s National Health Commission only recorded 10 new symptomatic confirmed cases — all imported from overseas — on Saturday, CNN said.
It also tallied 70 new asymptomatic cases, also imported, which are counted separately, according to the network.
Of the more than 30 COVID-19 vaccines currently in human trials worldwide, nine are from China, CNN reported.
Chinese companies are behind four of the nine vaccine candidates now in late-stage trials.
The University of Hong Kong announced last week that clinical trials have been approved for a nasal spray vaccine, developed in collaboration with researchers on the mainland.