China administers 200 million vaccine doses domestically

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A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks by masked residents lining up for COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site with a board displaying the slogan, "Timely vaccination to build the Great Wall of Immunity together" in Beijing, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING – Around 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered so far inside China, with an emphasis on front-line workers, university students and people living in border areas, health officials said.

China is ramping up vaccination efforts after a slow start that was due in part to the virtual elimination of domestic transmission of the coronavirus. Just two local cases were reported on Wednesday, both in the city of Ruili, which borders on Myanmar.

China has approved five domestically produced vaccines and exported millions of doses, although some scientists believe they provide less protection that those by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The Chinese vaccines have an efficacy range of 50.7% to 79.3%, based on company data, lower than their foreign peers but still effective.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many people had received both their first and second shots of vaccine.

“At present, vaccination efforts in key areas and key population groups are progressing smoothly overall,” Cui Gang, an official with the Center for Disease Control, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. Already, 80% of workers in the health sector have received at least one injection of vaccine, Cui said.

Cities across China have been reporting shortages with some people saying they could not get an appointment to get a second dose, National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng said. Health officials acknowledged the difficulties and said local governments should aim to make sure the second shot was provided within eight weeks.

China is giving millions of shots a day, and its goal is vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people by mid-June.

China locked down the city of Wuhan for more than two months starting in January 2020 after the coronavirus was first detected there in late 2019. Wuhan became known as the epicenter of the pandemic, although Beijing has suggested the virus might have been circulating earlier and possibly brought to China from abroad.