China says it has fully vaccinated 1 billion people

September 16, 2021, 9:20 AM UTC

On Thursday, China’s National Health Commission announced that the country has fully vaccinated 1 billion of its 1.41 billion citizens against COVID-19, a major milestone in the vaccination campaign of the world’s most populous country.

The scale of China’s campaign has put the nation multiples ahead of the rest of the world in absolute terms. China has now delivered nearly three times as many vaccines to its citizens as any other country. India, which has a slightly smaller population at 1.36 billion people, has administered 766 million vaccine doses compared with China’s 2.16 billion doses.

On a per capita basis, China is also surging ahead of other world powers.

China’s 1 billion fully vaccinated citizens means that nearly 70% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, compared with 54% in the U.S., 62.3% in the European Union, and 13.2% in India, according to Bloomberg.

China’s vaccine campaign ramped up this spring and summer to deliver over 20 million doses per day at its June peak after a slow start earlier in the year. Beijing deployed a mixture of carrots and sticks to encourage vaccinations, shying away from vaccine mandates but making life extremely difficult for the unvaccinated. For instance, it introduced measures that banned the unvaccinated from entering public places or participating in business meetings.

China releases a daily tally of the total vaccine doses it has administered, and, before Thursday, it had periodically released figures on how many people are fully vaccinated.

China’s speedy vaccine campaign has done little to change the country’s zero-tolerance policy toward COVID-19 infections. China remains largely sealed off from the rest of the world, and the government is still implementing strict quarantine measures to contain local outbreaks. Other well-vaccinated countries like Singapore are learning to live with some cases of the disease, accepting that COVID is here to stay and understanding that its population is protected against the worst effects of the virus.

This week, an outbreak of over 100 cases in China’s southern Fujian province prompted authorities to institute neighborhood-wide lockdowns, close bars and entertainment venues, and shut down schools across the city.

China has largely relied on vaccines from private Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac and state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm for its campaign.

The World Health Organization has approved both vaccines for emergency use, and they appear highly effective in preventing deaths and severe cases of COVID-19 in real world studies.

At the same time, the efficacy of the vaccines may be waning against the Delta variant, and in late August, China made high risk groups eligible to receive booster doses.

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