Beijing vaccinates thousands in Covid-19 jab drive

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BEIJING (AFP) – Thousands of people were lining up in Beijing to receive a Covid-19 vaccine as China races to innoculate millions before the Chinese New Year mass travel season in February.

More than 73,000 people in the Chinese capital have received the first dose of the vaccine over the last couple of days, state media reported Sunday, including community workers and bus drivers.

Health authorities on New Year’s Eve granted “conditional” approval to a vaccine candidate made by Chinese pharma giant Sinopharm, which the company said had a 79 percent efficacy rate.

Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed queues outside local hospitals and community health centres as people waited to read consent forms and have their temperatures taken before getting the jab.

Health officials said gyms and empty factories were among centres being used for the vaccination programme.

China plans to vaccinate millions this winter in the run-up to Lunar New Year in mid-February.

Beijing has already administered around 4.5 million doses of largely unproven emergency vaccines this year — mostly to health workers and other state employees destined for overseas jobs, according to authorities.

But China now plans a gradual rollout for the vaccine starting with key groups considered to have a high risk of exposure to the virus, including port and logistic workers and people planning to return to studies abroad.

China — where the coronavirus first emerged late in 2019 — has broadly stamped out the virus inside its borders, introducing swift local lockdowns and mass testing when cases emerge.

But the country has stepped up testing and movement controls after a recent spate of small local outbreaks, including a handful of cases in Beijing.

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