CHINA / SOCIETY
Chinese mass inoculation plan not hindered by vaccine shortage, fluctuating supply is regional, temporary
Published: Apr 09, 2021 10:38 PM
People line up to get vaccinated in front of a mobile vaccination vehicle in Beijing on Friday. Setting up COVID-19 vaccination sites in areas with heavy traffic will help improve the efficiency of vaccination and also spread vaccination information. Photo: cnsphoto

People line up to get vaccinated in front of a mobile vaccination vehicle in Beijing on Friday. Setting up COVID-19 vaccination sites in areas with heavy traffic will help improve the efficiency of vaccination and also spread vaccination information. Photo: cnsphoto



Through measures like prolonging injection intervals and prioritizing high-risk areas and groups, China is making efforts to maintain a balance in COVID-19 vaccine supply and demand while some places in China are reportedly facing a temporary COVID-19 vaccine shortage during the country's accelerating vaccination drive, which is aimed at guaranteeing the reported goal of the country to vaccinate about 560 million people by the end of June, Chinese experts said.   

Some places in China recently announced measures to adjust their local vaccination programs and the moves have been interpreted by some Western media as indicating that the country is facing a vaccine shortage and has difficulty realizing its vaccination goal. 

The health authority of Haikou, South China's Hainan Province, announced on April 4 that, due to a shortage of vaccine supply, injection of people who should take their second shots would be suspended until the middle or late April.  

Authority of South China's Guangdong Province also citing a vaccine shortage, announced to give priority to people in five local places that face the heaviest pressure of imported cases. 

A staff at a sub-district office in Xi'an of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province told the Global Times that the inoculation at his sub-district has been suspended for about three days as no vaccines are available at the moment. Residents can make an appointment first and wait.

These moves have been interpreted by some foreign media as a sign that China's mass inoculation program is hindered by vaccine shortage.  

The vaccine doses administered every day in China have also been fluctuating recently.

Since March 24, the National Health Commission began to update the public on the COVID-19 vaccine doses administered nationwide. As of Thursday, a total of 155.15 million doses have been administered.

On April 2, China saw 7.18 million doses given, hitting a record high in single-day inoculation. However, the daily inoculation rate plunged to 2.87 million on the second day, and hit a record low of 2.59 million on April 6. 

The pace didn't pick up until Thursday, when 6.08 million doses were completed.

China aims to raise the domestic vaccination target to 40 percent by June, or about 560 million people and 1.12 billion doses. To achieve that target, China has to administer 11.62 million doses per day from now on.

The Global Times learned from some local officials, medical workers and experts that the shortage exists, but it is normal while carrying out such a large-scale inoculation drive and, as mentioned above, Chinese local authorities as well as central authorities are adjusting due to actual situations to guarantee the inoculation goal.  

Local authorities can make quick arrangements for their vaccination plans, but it takes longer to produce and review vaccines before providing them to the residents, which creates an imbalance between demand and supply in some places, said Feng Duojia, president of the China Vaccine Industry Association, in an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Friday. 

Despite such shortage, Feng believes that Chinese authorities at different levels can make adjustments, as what the Haikou and Guangdong authorities have done, to keep a balance between demand and supply. 

"It is alright to delay giving the second shot for around 10 days to guarantee more people get at least one shot, and won't affect the efficacy of the vaccines," Feng explained.   

Normally, residents on the Chinese mainland accept COVID-19 vaccines with an interval of 14 or 21 days. 

In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech is provided with an interval of 28 days as injecting with this interval shows a higher rate of efficacy than an interval of 21 days due to experimental data.

An interval of 59 days is still within a reasonable range, according to Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based doctor closely studying the COVID-19 vaccines.

Zhuang told the Global Times that the adjustment of the Haikou authority is reasonable.  

Zeng, a staff at the residential community of Shaoyang in Central China's Hunan Province said they could receive about 200 doses every time, but not every day. "When the vaccines arrive, we will organize the residents for inoculation, when there are no vaccines available, we will just wait," Zeng said.

Zeng is optimistic about the second dose, which has not yet started in his community, and expects a stable supply for the second dose.

A source close to Shanghai's health authorities also told the Global Times that vaccine supply is generally stable in Shanghai and only some areas see tight supply. 

Such shortage is caused by a variety of factors, including the imbalance in reservations, the production capacity of enterprises, the vaccine allocation by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and transportation, the source said.

Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Friday that Chinese vaccine producers are probably also facing difficulties.

More Chinese producers are joining to help COVID-19 vaccine developers meet the demand.    

Sinopharm has mobilized its institutes in Northeast China's Jilin and Northwest China's Gansu provinces to fill vaccine doses for its Beijing and Wuhan institutes whose COVID-19 vaccines have been approved in China for the market with conditions.

  

The yearly production capacity of raw materials of the Sinovac Biotech has expanded to two billion. The company said that their capacity to produce finished products would reach a billion by the first half of 2021.    
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