China nearing herd immunity with 82.5% of population fully vaccinated
Updated 22:46, 11-Dec-2021
Cao Qingqing
Residents wait in line to get a booster vaccine dose in front of a mobile vaccination bus in Yunmeng County, Xiaogan City, Hubei Province, December 10, 2021. /CFP

Residents wait in line to get a booster vaccine dose in front of a mobile vaccination bus in Yunmeng County, Xiaogan City, Hubei Province, December 10, 2021. /CFP

Over 1.16 billion Chinese people, or 82.5 percent of the country's total population, had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday, said an official from the National Health Commission (NHC) at a press briefing on Saturday.

Wu Liangyou, deputy head of the disease control and prevention division at the NHC, stressed that vaccination is still the effective way to control the pandemic. He added that the NHC will continue to push the vaccination drive in China.

A total of 2.59 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in the country and more than 120 million people have received a booster shot, according to data from the NHC.

China will need to inoculate 83 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity theoretically, the country's top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan said on the same day at the Greater Bay Science Forum 2021 held in south China's Guangzhou. He said he's confident that the target will be reached by the end of this year.

Omicron variant increases uncertainty amid rising global death rate

Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic is still evolving, with the number of new cases worldwide exceeding 4 million per week and the mortality rate rising, said NHC spokesperson Mi Feng.

The Omicron variant, the new strain first detected in South Africa and which appears to be more transmissible than the Delta variant, further increases the uncertainty of the situation, said Mi, warning that China is under increasing pressure from inbound COVID-19 cases.

Since April last year, China has seen over 40 COVID-19 flare-ups, almost all of which were found to be related to overseas cases, said Liang Wannian, head of the expert team on COVID-19 response and disposal at the NHC.

The situation in China is basically safe and the top priority is to prevent inbound cases, Liang said, calling for strengthened efforts at borders and customs.

China to stick to 'dynamic zero-COVID' policy

China will stick to the "dynamic zero-COVID" policy, which means early detection of new cases, rapid response to control the spread of new infections, and effective treatment of cases to ensure that no large-scale epidemic rebounds occur, Liang explained.

A "'dynamic zero-COVID' does not mean 'zero infections,' as currently we are unable to ensure that not a single local case occurs," Liang said.

"But we have the ability and confidence to quickly eliminate every new rebound whenever new cases were detected. So this is what we want to emphasize, not to pursue 'zero infections,' but to control new infections as soon as possible," he explained.

The gist is to control and cut off the spread of new infections, instead of just letting go of the situation, he added.

How long China will continue with this strategy is up to multiple factors including global pandemic development, mutations of the virus, the severity of the disease and vaccination rates, Liang told Xinhua in November. 

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