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China Is Isolated Due to the Threat of Omicron, While Scientists Look for More Effective Vaccinations | Must Read


China’s health specialists intended to reopen to the world one year ago since herd immunity had been achieved.

Last month, China vaccinated more than 80% of its 1.4 billion citizens with two doses. But, in order to limit the extremely infectious omicron strain, the government has reverted to its strictest measures in two years.

The continued lockdowns reflect government worries about the efficiency of China’s immunizations against omicron, as well as the difficulties of giving booster injections before the first two doses lose potency.

A common approach in China, inactivated viral vaccinations (Sinopharm and Sinovac) have the drawback of causing more recurrent infections. More efficient mRNA vaccines are being developed in China, although it is unknown if they will reach the market.

Whether China succeeds in generating more effective vaccinations will affect both its own people and those who rely on them. Malaysia’s health minister said this month that officials were looking into whether citizens who received Sinovac needed a fourth booster dose.

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The Chinese government has reverted to strict and tight rules, with 13 million people in Xian, the city hit the most. The measures have disrupted Xian’s logistics, with locals reporting difficulties obtaining food shipments. Several local hospital personnel was sacked after a pregnant mother lost her baby outside a hospital while waiting for a coronavirus test result.

China is dealing with the most coronavirus infections since the outbreak began. Compared to other nations, the number of officially recorded cases is still small. Local officials are under strong pressure to stop the spread before the Winter Olympics in Beijing next month. According to official media, two instances of the omicron strain were identified in Tianjin, near Beijing, on Sunday. Residents waited in huge queues, wrapped up against the cold.

Meanwhile, fresh findings reveal China’s omicron vaccinations are less effective than Western vaccines, which have also shown less protection. The efficiency of a Sinopharm booster injection against omicron was found to be “significantly reduced” in a study published on Dec. 22 by Shanghai researchers.

A Hong Kong research indicated that three doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac were insufficient to protect against omicron infection.

That unpublished study by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Health and US experts warned nations that started their immunization efforts using CoronaVac may be in trouble even if they switch to another booster. The study found that two doses of Sinovac’s vaccine followed by a Pfizer booster injection provided comparable protection to two doses of Pfizer’s vaccination, but not enough to prevent omicron infection.

We found immediate consequences for nations that previously adopted a two-dose CoronaVac regimen.

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Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s health minister, stated Wednesday that anyone who got three Sinopharm or Sinovac injections would need a fourth five months later. Without it, their full vaccination status, which allows them to enter public places like malls and libraries, will be lost.

The Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccinations give some protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and mortality from the omicron form, according to a WHO official.

Top Chinese officials said combining booster injections will give better protection than getting three shots of a single vaccination.

Last month, the state-run China News Weekly reported Gao Fu, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as saying:

Researchers in China are still working on improving omicron vaccines, but it is unknown how long it will take or if they will succeed.

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CanSino, a Chinese business, said last month that their novel inhalable booster vaccination protects against omicron and is nearly as effective as mRNA vaccines. No peer-reviewed study has validated such assertions.

Sinopharm and Sinovac, two major Chinese pharmaceutical companies, say they are working on mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

With the Olympics starting in a month, China has reverted to tight pandemic controls. The controls would work, said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday.

“We are certain that we will overcome omicron’s hurdles and produce a streamlined, safe, and spectacular Olympic Games,” he added.

As omicron comes in China, covid limitations leave millions stranded.

Those arriving for the Olympics will be fenced off from the rest of China, allowing athletes to enter without protracted quarantine or risking illness.

“We will operate in a closed-loop,” said Han Zirong, secretary-general of the Beijing Winter Games. Any crossing from within to outside the closed-loop is strictly forbidden.

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In general, China’s borders are closed to outsiders save for the Olympics, and Chinese citizens are discouraged from visiting abroad. Some international university and graduate students who left home for a holiday in late 2019 have been barred from returning to China. Some have begged Beijing to let them return, using the hashtags #TakeUsBackToSchool and #TakeUsBackToChina on Twitter.

For the third year in a row, China is urging citizens not to travel to see loved ones for the Lunar New Year in February.

Alicia Chen and Pei Lin Wu also contributed.

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