According to China’s top medical official, not everyone in the country will need to get vaccinated against Covid-19, as Beijing looks to prioritize frontline workers and high-risk populations in a move that underscores rising confidence among policy-makers of their ability to contain the coronavirus.
At a vaccine summit in the city of Shenzhen on Saturday, Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that ‘since the first wave of Covid-19 appeared in Wuhan, China has already survived the impact of Covid-19 several times.’
Gao added that the question of vaccinating the public was one of balancing “risks and benefits,” pointing to factors like cost and potential side effects. There isn’t currently a need for mass vaccination at this stage — though that could change if another serious outbreak happens.
This policy marks China apart from many Western governments that have outlined plans to initiate mass public vaccination.
China’s reported virus numbers have stayed low since the spring. There have been few cases like the clusters in the northeastern Jilin province in May, an outbreak in Beijing in June, and another in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in July but these were met with prompt lockdown measures and mass testing, and the outbreaks were contained within a few weeks.
Gao said that these brief outbreaks serve as evidence of China’s effective containment measures. “The facts have proven that we have several magic weapons to respond to the epidemic,” he said, according to China News Service.
Any potential vaccine would instead be prioritized for those on the front lines, such as medical workers, Chinese nationals working overseas in virus hotspots, and people working in dense, high-risk environments like restaurants, schools, or cleaning services.