China to start vaccinating children to age 3 as cases spread
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Children as young as three will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in China, where 76% of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks.
Local city and provincial level governments in at least five provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children ages 3-11 will be required to get their vaccinations.
The expansion of the vaccination campaign comes as parts of China take new clampdown measures to try to stamp out small outbreaks.
Gansu, a northwestern province heavily dependent on tourism, closed all tourist sites Monday after finding new COVID-19 cases.
Residents in parts of Inner Mongolia have been ordered to stay indoors due to an outbreak there.
The National Health Commission reported 35 new cases of local transmission had been detected over the past 24 hours, four of them in Gansu.
Another 19 cases were found in the Inner Mongolia region, with others scattered around the country.
China has employed lockdowns, quarantines and compulsory testing for the virus throughout the pandemic and has largely stamped out cases of local infection while fully vaccinating 1.07 billion people in its population of 1.4 billion.
In particular, the government is concerned about the spread of the more contagious delta variant by travellers and about having a largely vaccinated public ahead of the Beijing Olympics in February.
Overseas spectators already have been banned from the Games, and participants will have to stay in a bubble separating them from people outside.
China's most widely used vaccines, from Sinopharm and Sinovac, have shown efficacy in preventing severe disease and transmission of the virus, based on public data.
But the protection they offer against the delta variant has not been answered definitively, although officials say they remain protective.
Hubei, Fujian and Hainan provinces all issued provincial level notices alerting new vaccination requirements, while individual cities in Zhejiang province and Hunan province have also issued similar announcements.
China in June had approved two vaccines — Sinopharm's from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinovac — for children age 3-17, but it has only been vaccinating those 12 and older.
In August, regulators approved another, Sinopharm's from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
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