Feb 23, 2021 07:18 PM

Why Seniors and Pregnant Women in China Can’t Get Vaccinated

Residents of the Mexican city of Ecatepec recieve the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 22. Photo: VCG
Residents of the Mexican city of Ecatepec recieve the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 22. Photo: VCG

Three Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for emergency use in China, including two from Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. and one from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. — none of which are recommended for pregnant women. And these vaccines are limited to recipients from 18 to 59 years old, excluding seniors from inoculation. Why?

When will seniors be able to get vaccinated for Covid-19?

Because seniors have weaker immune systems, they are more susceptible to the new coronavirus.

So far, no clinical data about Covid-19 vaccine trials involving people over the age of 59 in China have been made public. Vaccination guidelines initially issued by provinces and cities in China don’t recommend inoculations for people over 60.

However, the State Council, China’s cabinet, mentioned on Jan. 13 that vaccination will gradually be expanded to people aged 60 and above due to continuous improvement in the clinical data and the growing supply of vaccines.

Clinical trials for Sinopharm vaccines have been conducted for all age groups, including people over 60, Sinopharm Chairman Yang Xiaoming said in an interview with national broadcaster CCTV. It has been proven that the vaccines are safe and effective, he said, although the relevant data have not been disclosed.

A number of other vaccines that have been approved for marketing worldwide, including the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, also have different requirements for vaccinating older populations.

Because seniors face a greater risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that they receive the mRNA vaccine developed by Moderna Inc.

The U.K.’s government website also said that people over 65 can take newer coronavirus vaccines, including the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines.

European countries have different guidelines for vaccinating the elderly. In countries including Germany, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland, people under 65 are allowed to be inoculated. In Italy and Belgium, the age limit is 55.

Can pregnant or breastfeeding women get vaccinated?

Currently, the authorities do not recommend that pregnant women in China get a Covid-19 vaccine due to lack of relevant clinical trial data. Both Sinopharm and Sinovac have specifically prohibited their vaccines from being given to pregnant or breastfeeding women.

However, Wang Huaqing, chief expert on immunization planning at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has said that this could change once scientists know more about the new coronavirus.

Beijing’s municipal disease control body suggested in February that women who are preparing for pregnancy should try to delay getting pregnant until three months after they get vaccinated.

Zhu Fengcai, deputy director at Jiangsu provincial disease control body, recommended trying to wait six months to get pregnant after getting vaccinated.

Contact reporter Lu Zhenhua ( and editor Michael Bellart (

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