China administered 20.0 million COVID-19 vaccine doses on May 26, bringing the total number to 566.72 million, according to data released by the National Health Commission on Thursday.
It marks the highest daily number since China started to report vaccination progress on a daily basis.
China is currently delivering coronavirus vaccines at an unprecedented scale to its billion-strong population.
The rate, equivalent to delivering a dose to the entire vaccine-eligible population of Australia every day, will see the superpower catch up to Europe and the United States, and give Chinese authorities greater flexibility to expand their delivery of hundreds of millions of vaccine doses to developing countries.
The acceleration began on March 26 when China and the rest of the world were neck and neck, at 6.77 people vaccinated for every 100 in the population, figures compiled by Oxford University show. Then it went into overdrive. On Thursday 34.55 per 100 were vaccinated in China compared to 21.6 in the rest of the world, a 415 per cent increase in two months.
The inoculation program hit a record 17 million doses on the same day but China is still expected to fall short of its target of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 1.4 billion population by June.
The United States, the United Kingdom and European Union remain ahead in per capita terms after all three were hit by far larger COVID-19 outbreaks last year. But China is rapidly catching up as it urges the public to get vaccinated for the good of the country and small-scale local outbreaks shake locals out of their vaccine hesitancy.
Outside the Yangzhuang Community vaccination centre in Beijing’s Tongzhou District, 73-year-old Ms Liu said she and her husband had been reluctant to get vaccinated because of concerns about the impact on their chronic health conditions.
“Today, we decided to come to the inoculation station because of the recent outbreak in Liaoning and Anhui,” said Ms Liu, who asked to be referred to only by her last name.
There were more than two dozen cases linked to the two Chinese provinces last week.
“Also, sooner or later, China will open its door to the world but currently the pandemic situation in foreign countries is still very serious,” Ms Liu said. “So China needs to build herd immunity as soon as possible and we should respond to the call of the state government, protect both ourselves and others.”
Local governments are also offering inducements such as food and vouchers while deploying slick advertising campaigns to bolster the national message. China’s Sichuan Provincial Commission of Health on Tuesday released a hip hop video. The ad pulls together doctors and reluctant patients to reassure them about the safety of the vaccine while repeatedly singing “get jabbed quick” in the chorus.
“Everyone’s racing to get Chinese vaccines,” the actor playing a doctor raps. “Other countries yearn for them day and night. Some countries’ presidents and prime ministers have been vaccinated with it. It is very safe and this is guaranteed.”
China has been keen to promote the efficacy of its vaccines before and after receiving World Health Organisation emergency approval both to domestic and international audiences. More than 600 million doses have now been produced of the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, dwarfing production in Europe and the US. China has shipped more than 265 million doses across Asia, South America and the Middle East. The US has so far committed 80 million doses to the rest of the world.
Sinopharm has received WHO approval while Sinovac is still being reviewed for emergency use. In Chile, where 10.5 million doses of Sinovac have been administered, the vaccine was found in April to be 65 per cent effective at preventing serious illness.
Now, a third vaccine developed by the Chinese military and one of China’s vaccine producers, CanSino, is hitting the local market. The vaccine, which is being marketed as a single-dose solution, is accelerating delivery in seven provinces.
Chen Wei, leader of the research team that developed the Ad5-nCoV recombinant vaccine, told Chinese state media that a single shot would be effective but a second shot could also be administered six months later.
“The efficacy would improve from 60 to 70 per cent to over 90 per cent, with the second shot as a boost,” she said.
Source: Reuters/Sydney Morning Herald