Official: Elderly need vaccines, boosters to fight COVID
The National Health Commission called on Tuesday for an intensified effort to ensure that elderly people in China receive COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, as this group is much more vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.
Zheng Zhongwei, head of China's COVID-19 vaccine development task force, said the risk of severe illness among unvaccinated seniors is significantly higher than their vaccinated younger counterparts, according to figures collected from recent outbreaks in Guangdong and Jiangsu provinces.
So far, about 50 million seniors in the country, accounting for 20 percent of the total number of people over 60 in China, have yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In some provinces, the vaccination rate of people aged 80 and above is less than 30 percent.
In addition, statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States show that compared with people aged 18 to 29, the risk of death for infected patients over 85 years old was 370 times greater.
"Only by increasing the vaccination rate of elderly people can China gain the time and advantage for epidemic prevention and control," Zheng said.
Given that the level of neutralizing antibodies produced by seniors after vaccination is lower than that of young people, and all age groups see a decline in the level as time passes, the elderly are encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster as soon as possible, he added.
Meanwhile, China will increase the frequency of COVID-19 testing by targeting incoming travelers from high-risk regions and stepping up monitoring of port workers and imported cargo, as part of measures to strengthen virus containment amid the emergence of the newly identified Omicron variant.
Cui Gang, an official from the commission's disease prevention and control bureau, said safeguards against imported infections should be further strengthened, especially at port cities, as well as closely monitoring the pandemic situation overseas and stepping up local monitoring and precaution systems.
"For people and goods coming from foreign countries and regions, it is necessary to roll out more frequent tests, limit incoming passenger traffic and implement the circuit-breaker policy for international flights," he said.
To tackle the Omicron variant, China has already prepared preliminary technical reserves and conducted research, including on inactivated vaccines, mRNA vaccines, and viral vector vaccines.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that although the Omicron variant will pose challenges to epidemic prevention and control work during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the event will be held successfully.
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