China races to vaccinate elderly, but many are reluctant

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese officials are paying people over the age of 60 to go door-to-door to get the Covid-19 vaccine. But despite the increase in casesLi Liansheng, 64, said his friends were horrified by stories of fevers, blood clots and other side effects.

“When people hear about such incidents, they may not be willing to take the vaccine,” said Lee, who was vaccinated before contracting Covid-19. Days after his 10-day bout with the virus, Lee is nursing a sore throat and cough. He said it was like a “common cold” with a mild fever.

China has joined other countries in treating cases rather than trying to curb transmission of the virus by reducing or easing rules on testing, quarantine and movement as it tries to reverse an economic slowdown. But the shift has flooded hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients.

The National Health Commission announced a campaign on November 29 to increase vaccination rates among elderly Chinese, which health experts say is critical to averting a health care crisis. It is also the biggest hurdle before the ruling Communist Party lifts the world’s toughest antivirus restrictions.

China kept the number of cases low for two years with a “zero-Covid” strategy that isolated cities and confined millions to their homes. Now, as it closes that accessIt is facing a widespread outbreak that other countries have already gone through.

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The Health Commission has recorded just six Covid-19 deaths this month, bringing the country’s official toll to 5,241. This is despite several reports by families of deceased relatives.

China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure In its official COVID-19 toll, a health official said last week. This unusually narrow definition excludes many of the deaths that other countries will cause from Covid-19.

Experts predict 1 to 2 million deaths in China by the end of 2023.

Li, who was exercising in the leafy grounds of the Temple of Heaven in central Beijing, said he was considering getting a second booster because of the publicity campaign: “As long as we know the vaccine doesn’t cause major side effects. will be, we must take it. ”

Neighborhood committees, which constitute the lowest level of government, are mandated to locate and monitor the health of every person aged 65 and above. They are doing what state media calls the “ideological work” of lobbying residents to convince elderly relatives to vaccinate.

In Beijing, the Chinese capital, the Liulidun neighborhood is promising people over 60 up to 500 yuan ($70) to get a two-dose vaccination course and a booster.

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

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Older people are put off by the potential side effects of Chinese-made vaccines, for which the government has not announced test results on people 60 and older.

A 55-year-old friend developed fever and blood clots after the vaccination, Lee said. He said he can’t be sure the bullet was the culprit, but his friend is reluctant to take another.

“It is also said that the virus keeps changingLee said. “How do we know if the vaccines we get are beneficial?”

Some are reluctant because they have diabetes, heart problems and other health complications, despite warnings from experts that it’s even more important for them to get vaccinated because the risk of COVID-19 outweighs the potential vaccine side effects in almost everyone. are more serious.

A 76-year-old man walks daily around the Temple of Heaven with the aid of a stick, saying he wants to be vaccinated but has diabetes and high blood pressure. The man, who would only give his surname, Fu, said he wears a mask and tries to avoid crowds.

Older people also felt a bit of urgency because the low number of cases before the latest surge meant they faced a much lower risk of infection. However, the earlier lack of infections left China with few people who have developed antibodies against the virus.

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“Now, families and relatives of elderly people must make it clear to them that an infection can cause serious illness and death,” said Jiang Shibo of Fudan University Medical School in Shanghai.

According to the National Health Commission, more than 90% of people in China are vaccinated but only two-thirds of those over 80 are. According to its 2020 census, China has 191 million people aged 65 and over – a group that would itself be the eighth most populous country, behind Bangladesh.

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

Du Ming’s son managed to vaccinate the 100-year-old, according to his caregiver, Li Zhuqing, who was pushing Du wearing a face mask through a park in a wheelchair. Lee agreed with this approach because none of the family members have been infected, which means they are more likely to bring the disease home to Du if they come into contact.

Health officials declined requests by reporters to visit vaccination centers. Two who had briefly entered the centers were ordered to leave when workers discovered who they were.


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


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