China plans to accelerate the vaccinating of the elderly — especially those age 80 and above — by adjusting booster immunization protocol, thoroughly surveying local senior populations and stepping up services and awareness campaigns, authorities said on Tuesday.
Xia Gang, an official at the National Administration of Disease Prevention and Control, said that COVID-19 vaccines have demonstrated effective protection against severe illness and death.
"The elderly and other vulnerable groups are at high risk of becoming serious and critical cases, and even dying, so they are set to benefit the most from obtaining vaccines," he said during a news conference.
The State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism released a plan dedicated to ramping up elderly vaccination on Tuesday.
The document said that the required period between completing primary vaccination and getting a booster shot has been reduced to at least three months based on real-world studies and clinical data. The previous requirement was at least six months.
In addition, the plan clarified that all doses approved for boosting immunization — including a nasal spray — can be coupled with any kind of vaccines used for initial inoculation, providing a total of seven immunization combinations.
The plan also stressed that vaccination efforts should be increased at key venues, such as elderly care facilities, senior colleges and recreational centers, as well as at gatherings and among tourist groups involving a large number of seniors.
Local governments should use big data tools to identify how many seniors reside in their jurisdictions and evaluate their conditions to rule out those who are not suitable for vaccination due to contraindications.
Convenient vaccination services catering to the group — such as setting up green channels for seniors and offering door-to-door services — should be maintained, according to the plan, which added that health education materials tailored to the elderly should be dispersed to highlight the safety and efficacy of vaccines and the imperative need to get vaccinated.
As of Monday, the mainland had fully vaccinated over 1.27 billion people, or 90.28 percent of its total population, and had delivered booster shots to about 811 million.
About 282 million elderly aged 60 and above, or 86.4 percent, had completed primary inoculation, and 181.5 million had received a booster shot.
For those age 80 and above, nearly 23.6 million, or 65.8 percent, had finished primary immunization, and about 14.4 million had got a booster.