BEIJING (Reuters) – China has accelerated its COVID-19 vaccines, administering 10 million doses in about a week, and is considering various visa policies based on vaccination conditions and viruses in different countries, officials said on Sunday.
The country had administered 74.96 million doses of vaccines as of Saturday, health commission spokesman Mi Feng said at a news conference. That’s up from the 64.98 million as of March 14.
China aims to vaccinate 40% of its 1.4 billion people by mid-year, according to state media and a top health adviser. China was one of the first countries to start administering vaccines last year and has been exporting millions of doses, but its vaccination rate has lagged that of countries like Israel and the United States.
More than 70 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech injection have been administered worldwide, a company spokesperson said at the press conference, without specifying how many of them had been administered in China.
Beijing is considering differentiated policies for the issuance of visas, flights, and controls on the number of people arriving in China based on the progress of vaccination and COVID-19 situations in different countries.
“We are not exempting vaccinated people from testing and isolation measures at this time,” said Feng Zijian, deputy director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC).
But he said China will pay attention to international progress in developing “vaccine passports” and may adjust measures to curb the virus after the national population reaches a high level of immunization.
Year-round vaccine production in China can fully meet the needs of the entire country, said Mao Junfeng, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology official.
He said the supply of materials for vaccine production, including glass vials and syringes, is “relatively stable.”
Countries with a high proportion of older people should be prioritized for vaccination, said Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at China’s CDC.
If all countries advance their vaccination programs at the same pace, each country may achieve only 10% or 30% immunity, which is not enough to protect the population, Wu explained at the Development Forum of China in Beijing on Saturday night.
“We need to reach 70% -80% in one country as soon as possible, then in a second country, then in a third country,” Wu said.
China has approved four locally developed vaccines for general public use from Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and two units of the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).
A fifth vaccine developed by the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was approved for emergency use last week.
Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by William Mallard and Sam Holmes