Large-scale COVID-19 vaccine injections not needed as domestic pandemic curbed: CDC director


A boy looks at Sinovac Biotech LTD's vaccine candidate for COVID-19 on display at the China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) in Beijing on September 6. Photo: AFP

As China has already curbed the coronavirus contagion, a COVID-19 vaccine could be injected sparingly rather than on a large-scale, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said. Experts remind that while vaccines are useful, the public should remain on high alert for any potential resurgence. 

While COVID-19 vaccines are making major breakthroughs both abroad and domestically, there is no need to carry out large-scale injections, given that pandemic infections in China have been brought under control, Director of the CDC Gao Fu said at a vaccine summit held in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province on Saturday. 

Instead, Gao suggested that the vaccines could be injected sparingly, prioritizing those most in need, such as people working overseas in countries where the contagion risks are high, or medical staff working closely with coronavirus related issues, China News reported on Sunday. 

As a medical researcher himself, Gao was injected with an experimental COVID-19 vaccine in late July, a move that was intended to enhance the public's confidence in vaccines amid spreading sentiment against immunizations. 

People engaged in public service sectors such as catering, public security, and cleaning, as well as government officials and school staff are also recommended for vaccine injections, Gao noted. 

When asked about the cost of the vaccine, Gao explained that although he would like to see them provided to the public for free, the government must take into consideration the balance between its fiscal capacity and the actual needs for epidemic prevention and control. 

In response to concerns over possible antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) effects brought by vaccination, which could lead to failures in people's immune response systems and cause the disease to worsen instead of being cured, Gao said that he holds a cautious but optimistic attitude towards the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

"Since there has never been a COVID-19 vaccine developed before, which makes this case the very first in science, it is possible that it may induce ADE effects as any other firsts we will possibly face," he said. 

Experts said that while vaccines are useful in facing the long-term battle against COVID-19, the public should always remain on high alert for any potential resurgence of the pandemic. 

"Cutting off the viral transmission by washing hands, wearing protective masks, and keeping social distance are always the most effective measures against viral infections," Wang Guangfa, a leading Chinese respiratory expert at Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Wang pointed out that unlike influenza, which usually sees high incidences in winter, the risk of becoming infected with coronavirus remains high throughout the next 2-3 years, and people should prepare themselves for co-existence with the disease for a long period of time. 

"But chances of another pandemic outbreak in China are small, as long as epidemic monitoring and management systems remain on high alert to detect and deal with potential dangers in a timely manner," noted Wang.