Vaccination still best way to reduce health risks from COVID-19: chief immunologist
Published: Apr 06, 2022 10:34 PM
A citizen receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Yinchuan, capital city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Jan. 2, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua)

A citizen receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Yinchuan, the capital city of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, on Jan. 2, 2022.(Photo: Xinhua News Agency)

The best way to reduce the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 is still to get vaccinated, said a chief immunologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a press conference on Wednesday. Officials from the National Health Commission (NHC) said they are continuing to guide local authorities to actively and steadily promote the vaccination program. 

Wang Huaqing, a chief immunologist at the CDC, said at the press conference that advanced age, underlying conditions and lack of vaccination are the three main risk factors for severe illness and death in coronavirus infection.

From January to March this year, China reported a total of more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases, including 197 severe or critical cases. In the current outbreak, only about 15 percent of severe and critically ill patients in a designated hospital in Northeast China's Jilin province had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, far below the national average level, according to the press release.

As of April 5, more than 1.24 billion people have been fully vaccinated, accounting for 88.18 percent of the total population in China, according to the data from the NHC. Among them, 224.182 million people aged 60 and above have been vaccinated, with 212.823 million completing the full course of vaccination.

China's CDC issued a Q&A on COVID-19 vaccination for the elderly on Tuesday, suggesting that elderly people who have not been vaccinated or have not received "booster shots" should get vaccinated as soon as possible.

According to experts from China's CDC, the risk of severe illness and death following coronavirus infection can be reduced by more than 90% in the elderly who receive a booster vaccination on a whole-course basis. 

As for the concerns that many older people have about their health conditions, CDC experts say the elderly, especially those with underlying diseases, should actively seek protection from vaccination, as people with underlying diseases are more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19 once infected.

"The safety of vaccines is guaranteed for all people, whether children, adults or the elderly," Yang Zhanqiu, a professor with the pathogen biology department at Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Given that the current variant of the coronavirus is highly infectious, the elderly can still catch the virus even if they stay indoors or live in remote rural areas. Vaccination, therefore, is one of the most effective ways for the elderly to protect themselves as well as others, Yang said.

Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based medical expert, also noticed that vaccination is not compulsory at present, but policies can be adopted to encourage elderly people to get vaccinated. Clearer regulations and related publicity could also be issued to ease people's concerns about vaccination, Zhuang noted.