Monday, December 19, 2022

I don't trust it:' Vaccine scepticism persists despite an increase in China Covid cases

'I don't trust it:' Vaccine hesitancy lingers even as China Covid cases surge

 SHENZHEN: Headhunter Candice is aware that the Covid-19 infections that are plaguing Beijing and a large portion of China will soon spread to Shenzhen city, but she would rather face it without a booster shot because she is more concerned about the potential side effects than the virus itself.

The 28-year-old took two doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac last year in the hope that it would make traveling easier. However, she has since become more skeptical, citing stories from friends about health effects and similar social media health warnings.

She said, under the condition that only her first name be used, "I don't trust it." Candice stated that she has refused to participate in recent community-organized vaccination drives.

Academics assert that Candice is a member of a group that demonstrates how widespread vaccine reluctance remains in mainland China. This poses a growing challenge for Beijing as it tries to convince more people to get vaccinated in the face of an increase in infections following the removal of stringent anti-Covid measures.

Officially, China has a vaccination rate above 90%, but according to government data, the rate for healthy adults drops to 57.9% and for people 80 and older to 42.3%. This has led to warnings that the country could see over 1.5 million deaths if lockdowns and mass testing that stopped most virus spread are lifted.

An article published in September by a publication affiliated with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged that coverage of older adults was poor, that the absence of local doctors participating in vaccine drives, a lack of medical understanding, and a lack of insurance for potential side effects dampened enthusiasm, and that these issues contributed to low levels of coverage.

Stephanie Jean-Tsang, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University who specializes in health-related messaging, stated, "It's a very special case in China because people felt very safe for a long time."

"It took time for Hong Kong citizens and the elderly to realize this as well. People need to realize the risks and the benefits of the vaccines."

Specialists have not made inoculation required in the midst of signs that general society would stand up against any such move. China announced last week that it would begin providing a second booster, also known as a fourth shot, to high-risk groups and individuals over the age of 60.

The general public in mainland China cannot access vaccines developed overseas because the country has relied on Sinopharm's inactivated shots, Sinovac's Coronavac, and other domestically developed vaccine options, which the medical community has found to be safe. Additionally, it has yet to release its own mRNA vaccine.

Kelly Lei, a doctor in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, stated that although the medical community in general in China does not have any doubts regarding the safety of China's vaccines, there are still concerns regarding their efficacy in comparison to those made in other countries.

On the Weibo platform, which is similar to Twitter, the hashtag "Sinovac vaccine counterfeit" reached five million views at the end of November. Numerous posts discussed lumps and hair loss that the locally produced vaccine allegedly caused.

According to Lei, "at least half of doctors and educated people wanted the mRNA ones and refused to get the Chinese ones."

"Inevitably, individuals see no expectation and furthermore they are somewhat compelled to get the Chinese ones, so they needed to acknowledge it. Some doctors talked to me and said, "Why waste the money when it's useless?"

Lei stated that many of her friends want to visit Macau, a neighboring Chinese territory where mainland residents can get mRNA vaccines.

Visitors to Macau report that demand has increased significantly in recent weeks. As of January 21, there were no vaccination bookings available on the online booking platform.

But China is now experiencing a wave of infections across the country after eliminating some of the most stringent anti-Covid controls in the world last week. As a result, some people who are unable to travel to Macau or another country have chosen to get the Chinese vaccines out of desperation.

"Things have started to get wild in Guangzhou. Lei stated, "They at least want something for some protection."

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