China considering Covid-19 booster shots for high-risk groups

Covid-19 booster shots can be rolled out to high-risk groups in China after enough people are vaccinated to establish herd immunity, domestic vaccine developers said amid mounting evidence that an additional dose can increase immune response. Zhang Yuntao, Vice President of the China National Biotech Group, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm, said the focus at present remains on immunizing all people eligible to be vaccinated and building herd immunity against the virus. “In the long run, booster shots can be rolled out in China and the priority will include people above 60 years old, as well as workers in the sectors of civil aviation, catering, delivering and other industries that involve employees moving the most frequently across society,” he said. For the company’s two-dose inactivated vaccines, Zhang said antibody levels appear to decline about six months after vaccination. Sinovac said that injecting a third dose on top of its two-dose regime can lead to a significant increase in the types and overall levels of antibodies.

Nanjing’s Lukou International Airport, where China’s latest Covid-19 outbreak was first reported, resumed domestic flights on August 26 following a suspension lasting over a month. It was the most extensive outbreak in China since the one that started in Wuhan in late 2019. The airport suspended domestic passenger flights on July 23 and international flights on July 28 for quarantine and thorough disinfection. Nanjing has lifted all lockdowns in residential communities. One of the areas near the airport, the Lukou subdistrict, had been quarantined since July 21, with nearly 140,000 residents required to stay home.

Chinese experts said the accusation that the country is reluctant to share raw data regarding the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic is unfounded, as there seem to be misconceptions among some foreign politicians and media regarding the definition and application of raw data in scientific inquiry. A classified U.S. intelligence report, commissioned by U.S. President Joe Biden in May, reached no conclusion on the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, stating it lacked information from China. Liang Wannian, team leader of the Chinese side of the WHO-China joint team studying the origins of Covid-19, said the speculation that China did not provide raw data to the joint research team is unfounded. Data of the 174 Covid-19 patients identified in China in December 2019 was displayed and shared during the WHO’s mission in Wuhan in the beginning of this year.

Chen Xu, Permanent Representative of China to the UN Office at Geneva has sent a letter to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, requesting a transparent investigation into the origins of Covid-19 with full access to the labs of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID) at Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina (UNC) in the U.S. It is the first time that China formally asked the WHO through diplomatic channels to conduct a probe on virus origins at Fort Detrick and the University of North Carolina. If some parties are of the view that the “lab leak” hypothesis remains open, it is labs like Fort Detrick and the one at the UNC that should be subject to transparent investigations, Ambassador Chen said. A classified intelligence report ordered by U.S. President Joe Biden more than 90 days ago did not reach a conclusion on the origins of the coronavirus. Parts of the report were declassified last week.

3DMed Diagnostics has developed the first testing kit that can screen people for both the corona and influenza viruses. The company received market approval in China and is also preparing to export the test kits. “Some foreign countries and regions have already expressed strong interest in the product and we’re preparing for its registration to access those markets,” said Xiong Lei, Founder and Chairman of Shanghai-based 3DMed Diagnostics. The Shanghai Science and Technology Commission said recently that the testing kit, which can screen individuals for the two viruses at once and distinguish between them, was granted market approval by the National Medical Products Administration on August 16. The test is based on the fluorescence quantitative polymerase chain reaction platform. Experts said patients suffering from coronavirus or influenza may show similar clinical symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, cough and fatigue, and even CT scan images of their lungs may look similar. The availability of such a combined testing kit will help doctors determine why a patient is running a fever and choose the best medical treatment as soon as possible, the company said.

This overview is based on reports by the China Daily, Global Times, Shanghai Daily and South China Morning Post.