Despite its vaccination program, China cannot yet open its borders, according to one of the country’s top health officials.
Feng Zijian, deputy director general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that even with 60-80% of the population fully vaccinated, opening the borders would still pose the risk of a severe outbreak of COVID-19.
He went on to explain that this is because in China’s largely COVID-free population, there is no way to know if China’s vaccines can prevent onward transmission as well as preventing serious sickness.
Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as those developed by Pfizer Inc., BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc., appear to prevent onward transmission as has been shown in a number of countries around the world.
CEO of Chinese pharmaceutical company Walvax Biotechnology Co. Li Yunchun, told Bloomberg that the company is developing its own mRNA vaccine. Li said he expects that vaccine to undergo phase three clinical trials in South America, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Central America. Whether or not it will be as effective as mRNA vaccines used in other countries remains to be seen.
According to Our World in Data, China has administered more than 800 million vaccine doses as of June 9. However, it is not clear how many of these are first and second doses. Approval was recently given for children in China as young as three years old to get vaccinated.
In China, residents can receive an inactivated vaccine produced by either Sinopharm or Sinovac. Clinical trials in other countries suggest the vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness caused by COVID-19.
As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened overseas in the early part of 2020, China closed its borders to almost all foreigners at midnight on March 28, 2020. Anyone entering the Chinese mainland from overseas must still undergo strict measures of centralized quarantine and testing. Most places in the mainland require 21 days of centralized quarantine.
The latest news will be disappointing for many. Clearly, there is still a long way to go on the road back to normality.
[Cover image via Pixabay]