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China ups vaccination drive with free eggs; coupons

2021-04-16 HKT 12:45
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  • Vaccination is supposed to be voluntary, but overzealous efforts by some local governments and companies prompted health officials to issue a warning this week against forced vaccinations. File photo: AP
    Vaccination is supposed to be voluntary, but overzealous efforts by some local governments and companies prompted health officials to issue a warning this week against forced vaccinations. File photo: AP
China’s apparent success at controlling the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a population that has seemed almost reluctant to get vaccinated.

So it is accelerating its inoculation campaign by offering incentives — free eggs, store coupons and discounts on groceries and merchandise — to those getting a shot.

After a slow start, China is now giving millions of shots a day.

On March 26 alone, it administered 6.1 million shots.

A top government doctor, Zhong Nanshan, has announced a June goal of vaccinating 560 million of the country’s 1.4 billion people.

The challenge lies partly in the sheer scale of the effort and the need to convince a population that currently feels safe from infections.

“I think everyone has a sense of security and comfort, and there’s no big rush to get vaccinated unless you are asked to do so,” said Helen Chen, a health care specialist at a market research firm in Shanghai.

But China also wants to open up as the world seeks to return to pre-pandemic normalcy and Beijing readies to welcome tens of thousands of visitors as host of the Winter Olympics in February 2022.

For now, in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the government has relied mostly on sustained messaging and freebies to convince people to get vaccinated.

Shopping malls have offered points at stores or coupons.

A temple in Beijing offered free entry to anyone showing proof of vaccination.

And then there are the free eggs. “Good news. Starting from today, residents 60 years old and above who have gotten their first shot are eligible for five ‘jin’ (2.5 kilograms or 5 1/2 pounds) of eggs. First come, first serve,” said a poster by a city-run health center in Beijing.

Vaccination is supposed to be voluntary, but overzealous efforts by some local governments and companies prompted health officials to issue a warning this week against forced vaccinations.

A hospital in Danzhou on the southern island province of Hainan issued an apology after it issued a notice to staff saying, “Those who are not vaccinated could be fired.” (AP)