China races to vaccinate elderly, but many are reluctant

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities are going door-to-door and paying people over 60 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But even when cases are increasingLi Liansheng, 64, said his friends were worried by stories of fevers, blood clots and other side effects.

“When people hear about such incidents, they may not want to get vaccinated,” said Li, who was vaccinated before contracting COVID-19. Days after a 10-day battle with the virus, Li is suffering from a sore throat and cough. He said it was like a “common cold” with a low fever.

China has joined other countries in treating cases rather than trying to stop the spread of the virus by lifting or relaxing testing, quarantine and movement rules in an attempt to reverse the economic downturn. But the shift flooded hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients.

National Health Commission on November 29. launched a campaign to increase vaccination rates among elderly Chinese, which health experts say is critical to averting a health care crisis. It is also the biggest obstacle to the ruling Communist Party’s ability to lift the last of the world’s toughest anti-virus restrictions.

China has kept its case numbers low for two years with a “zero COVID” strategy that has isolated cities and confined millions of people to their homes. Now that he’s ditching that attitudeit faces widespread outbreaks that other countries have already experienced.

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The health commission recorded just six deaths from COVID-19 this month, bringing the country’s official death toll to 5,241, despite many families reporting dead relatives.

China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in the official COVID-19 death toll, a health official said last week. This unusually narrow definition excludes many deaths that other countries would attribute to COVID-19.

Experts predict that by 2023 1 to 2 million people will die in China by the end of

Li, who was exercising on the green grounds of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, said he was considering getting a second booster shot because of the publicity campaign: “As long as we know the vaccine won’t cause major side effects, we should take it.” .

Neighborhood committees, which form the lowest level of government, were instructed to find all those 65 and older and track their health. They are doing what state media call “ideological work” – lobbying residents to convince elderly relatives to get vaccinated.

In Beijing, China’s capital, the Liulidun district promises people over 60 years old to receive a two-dose vaccination course and one booster for up to 500 yuan ($70).

National Health Commission on December 23. announced that the number of people vaccinated daily has more than doubled to 3.5 million. But that’s still a small fraction of the tens of millions of shots that were fired every day in 2021. at the beginning

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Older people are put off by the potential side effects of Chinese-made vaccines, which has kept the government from releasing the results of studies on people 60 and older.

Li said the 55-year-old friend developed a fever and blood clots after the vaccination. He said they can’t be sure it was a gunshot, but his friend doesn’t want to get another one.

“It is also said that the virus is constantly mutating” said Li. “How do we know if the vaccines we use are working?”

Some don’t want to because they have diabetes, heart disease and other health complications, despite experts warning that it’s even more urgent for them to get vaccinated because the risk of COVID-19 is more serious than the potential side effects of the vaccine for almost everyone.

The 76-year-old man, who walks around the Temple of Heaven with a cane every day, said he wanted to get vaccinated but had diabetes and high blood pressure. The man, who would only give his surname Fu, said he wears masks and tries to avoid the crowd.

Older people also felt no sense of urgency, as the low number of cases before the latest increase meant few faced the risk of infection. But because of the previous lack of infections, there are few people left in China who have developed antibodies against the virus.

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“Now, families and loved ones of the elderly should make it clear to them that infection can cause serious illness and even death,” said Jiang Shibo of Fudan University School of Medicine in Shanghai.

According to the National Health Commission, more than 90% of people in China have been vaccinated, but only about two-thirds of people over the age of 80. in 2020 according to the census, China has 191 million people aged 65 and over, a group that would itself be the eighth most populous country, ahead of Bangladesh.

“Coverage rates for people over 80 still need to be improved,” Shanghai news outlet The Paper said. “The elderly are at high risk.”

Du Ming’s son arranged for the 100-year-old to be vaccinated, according to his caretaker Li Zhuqing, who pushed the masked Du through the park in a wheelchair. Li agreed with this approach because none of the family members were infected, meaning they were more likely to bring the disease home to Du if they were exposed.

Health officials refused journalists’ requests to visit the vaccination centers. Two who briefly entered the centers were told to leave when staff discovered who they were.


AP researcher Yu Bing and video producers Olivia Zhang and Wayne Zhang contributed.


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