SHENZHEN: Headhunter Candice knows that Covid-19 infections engulfing Beijing and much of China will soon hit her home in the city of Shenzhen, but she would rather face it without a vaccine booster, saying she fears more the potential side effects than the virus.
The 28-year-old took two doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac last year, hoping it would make travel easier, but has since become more skeptical, citing stories from friends about the health effects, as well as warnings similar on social media.
“I don’t trust him,” she said, speaking on the condition that only her first name be used. Candice said she refused to participate in recent vaccination campaigns organized by her local community.
Candice is part of a group demonstrating how vaccine hesitancy Still flowing deep in mainland China, scholars say, posing a growing headache for Beijing as it tries to persuade more to get vaccinated in the face of a spike in infections after strict anti-Covid measures were lifted.
Officially, China’s vaccination rate is over 90%, but the rate for adults who received a booster drops to 57.9% and 42.3% for people aged 80 and over, the data shows. of the government, which warned that the country could see more than 1.5 million deaths after the lifting. brakes such as lockdowns and mass testing that have kept most viruses at bay.
In September, an article in a publication of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that coverage of the elderly was poor and that the absence of local doctors in vaccination campaigns, poor medical understanding and a lack of assurance for potential patients effects any dampened enthusiasm.
“It’s a very special case in China because people felt very safe for a long time,” said Stephanie Jean-Tsang, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University who specializes in health messaging.
“People need to realize what the risks are and how beneficial vaccines are – it took time for Hong Kong citizens and the elderly to realize that too.”
Authorities have not made vaccination compulsory amid signs that the public would push back against such a move. Last week, China announced it would start offering a second booster – or fourth shot – to high-risk groups and people over 60.
Vaccines developed overseas are not available in mainland China to the general public, which has relied on Sinopharm’s inactivated injections, Sinovac’s Coronavac and other domestically developed options for its vaccine deployment and that the medical community has deemed safe. It has yet to introduce its own version of an mRNA vaccine.
While the Chinese medical community in general does not doubt the safety of Chinese vaccines, questions remain about their effectiveness compared to their foreign-made mRNA counterparts, said Kelly Lei, a doctor in the city of Shenzhen. , in southern China.
In late November, the hashtag “Counterfeit Sinovac Vaccine” reached five million views on the Twitter-like Weibo platform, with numerous posts about lumps and hair loss allegedly caused by the locally manufactured vaccine.
“At least half of the doctors and educated people wanted to get the mRNAs and refused to get the Chinese,” Lei said.
“After a while people don’t see any hope and they kind of have to get the Chinese, so they had to accept it. Some doctors talked to me and said it was useless anyway, why waste money.”
Lei said many of his friends were looking to visit the neighboring Chinese territory of Macau, where mainlanders can receive mRNA vaccines.
Demand has increased in recent weeks, according to visitors to Macau, with the online vaccination booking platform not showing any reservations available until Jan. 21.
But after dropping some of the world’s toughest anti-Covid curbs last week, China is now experiencing a wave of infections across the country, prompting some people unable to travel to Macau or abroad to opt for Chinese vaccines out of desperation.
“In Guangzhou…things have started to get wild. They at least want something for some protection,” Lei said.

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