Caixin
Nov 13, 2021 07:10 AM
CHINA

Caixin Summit: China Needs New Weapons for Covid Fight, Top Expert Says

Zhang Wenhong in a video appearance at the annual Caixin Summit.
Zhang Wenhong in a video appearance at the annual Caixin Summit.

In the fight against Covid-19, China needs an enhanced vaccination strategy, refined disease control and prevention measures, and new drugs to treat the disease, according to top infectious disease expert Zhang Wenhong.

“The mass vaccination in most countries globally has not been as effective as expected in controlling the spread of the disease,” Zhang said Friday in a video appearance at the annual Caixin Summit. This “led to the virus’s prevalence remaining relatively high.”

Zhang, the director of China’s National Center of Infectious Diseases and director of the Infectious Diseases Department of Huashan Hospital affiliated to Fudan University, said the global effort to contain the pandemic has encountered “huge challenges.”

Now there is a growing belief that Covid-19 is likely to persist. Virologists worldwide agree that the coronavirus has become a resident pathogen, and the world will have to learn to coexist with it. Health experts emphasize the importance of vaccination for building herd immunity.

For China, Zhang said, a pressing challenge is that neighboring countries have been gradually reopening their borders while relaxing disease-control measures. This requires a new strategy better-suited to meeting the ongoing challenge while normalizing people’s lives and livelihoods, Zhang said.

Countries like Israel, Singapore and the U.K. have been giving booster vaccination shots to certain groups of people, Zhang said. A third dose of Covid-19 vaccine improves immunity, helping to enhance prevention and control, he said.

By administering booster shots to almost 50% of its population, Israel has recently achieved a significant reduction in the prevalence rate of the virus, Zhang said. He said China could learn from Israel’s experience.

The Chinese mainland has vaccinated nearly 80% of its more than 1.4 billion people and has started offering booster shots in several provinces and cities as new outbreaks of the highly transmissible delta mutation spread.

With a “zero tolerance” policy, China has largely brought the domestic spread of Covid-19 under control, though regional flare-ups of the delta variant continue to appear. Local Covid-19 outbreaks in mainland China that began in mid-October have spread to 20 of 31 provincial-level regions, with more than 1,000 locally transmitted infections recorded in dozens of cities in a month.

Top Chinese epidemiologist Zeng Guang said at a Saturday forum that the country will need to continue its zero-tolerance strategy with nationwide emergency responses until a “barrier of immunity” has been established. Then China will enter the next phase of normalizing disease control and prevention.

Zhang said progress in the research and development of Covid-19 drugs would also help keep mortality rates low.

Chinese pharmaceutical companies have been working on creating Covid-19 drugs. Sinopharm is developing two treatments for infected individuals with mild conditions, according to state media. Its Covid-19 intravenous injection drug obtained authorization for clinical trials in China and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Contact reporter Cai Xuejiao (xuejiaocai@caixin.com) and Lu Zhenhua (zhenhualu@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (hello@caixin.com)

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