(CNN) — Not everyone in China will need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the country’s top medical official, as Beijing seeks to prioritize front-line workers and high-risk populations in a move that underscores growing confidence among those responsible. politicians of their ability to contain the virus.
“Since the first wave of covid-19 appeared in Wuhan, China has already survived the impact of covid-19 several times,” Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said at a summit. on vaccines in Shenzhen city on Saturday, according to state news agency China News Service.
The issue of vaccinating the public was about balancing “risks and benefits,” Gao added, pointing to factors such as cost and possible side effects. There is currently no need for mass vaccination at this stage, although that could change if another serious outbreak occurs, Gao said.
The policy distinguishes China from many Western governments, notably Australia, which have outlined plans to introduce mass public vaccination campaigns.
The virus numbers reported in China have been low since spring. There have been a few outbreaks, groups in the northeastern province of Jilin in May, an outbreak in Beijing in June and another in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in July, but these were met with immediate lockdown measures and massive testing. And the outbreaks were contained within a few weeks.
Gao cited these brief outbreaks as proof of China’s effective containment measures. “The facts have shown that we have several magic weapons to respond to the epidemic,” he said, according to China News Service.
Instead, any potential vaccines would be prioritized for those on the front lines, he added: medical workers, Chinese nationals working abroad at virus host points, and people working in dense, high-risk environments like restaurants, schools or cleaning services.
On Saturday, the China National Health Commission It only registered 10 new confirmed symptomatic cases, all imported from abroad. It also reported 70 new asymptomatic cases, which are counted separately, also all imported.
CNN has reached out to the NHC for further comment.
Global race for a coronavirus vaccine
Despite Gao’s comments, China has been one of the major players in the global race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of vaccines and can supply more than 1 billion doses of a vaccine per year from 40 manufacturers across the country, according to the China Human Vaccine Industry Report 2018-2022.
Of the more than 30 vaccines currently in human trials globally, nine are from China, most from any country. And four of the nine candidate vaccines in late-stage trials are being developed by Chinese companies.
Last week, the University of Hong Kong ad clinical trials were approved for a nasal spray vaccine, developed in collaboration with researchers from mainland China.
China has already pushed some vaccines before their effectiveness has been fully tested. In late June, the country approved an experimental vaccine for use by its military. And since July, China has been using a different experimental vaccine in people who work in “high-risk” jobs as medical professionals and border agents. No vaccine has completed phase 3 trials.
Other countries can do the same; The Indian health minister said on Sunday that the government was considering granting an emergency authorization to candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine before the completion of phase 3 trials.
Gao himself was injected with an experimental vaccine in July, in a move that was “intended to improve public confidence in vaccines,” according to the state tabloid. Global Times.
Experts have previously said that vaccination is key for countries like China, where the percentage of infected people within the population is relatively low due to strict containment measures.
“The general immunity is very low. Therefore, in these places, the way to go is definitely vaccines, “he said. Ivan Hung, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Hong Kong School of Medicine, in late August.
But Gao warned Saturday that development of the vaccine is still a work in progress, with poor side effect risks.
‘Given that a vaccine against covid-19 has never been developed before, making this case a first in science, it is possible that it could induce ADE (antibody-dependent enhancement) effects like any other first we may face ”He said, quoted by the Global Times.
ADE is when specific antibodies help a virus enter cells and replicate; basically, when a treatment worsens the disease.
“Scientific research is a very rigorous process, we need to give scientists a little more time,” he added.