In China, children as young as three are now being vaccinated against the coronavirus. Several municipalities and provincial governments announced this week the start of a corresponding campaign. On the tropical island of Hainan and in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang, they said kindergarten groups and primary school classes should go collectively for immunization. The national education ministry stressed that participation was voluntary.
However, the line between mandatory and voluntary is interpreted differently by local governments. In Hainan, authorities sent letters to parents saying that for the sake of their children, they should have a "correct attitude and actively support your child's vaccination."
In authorities' Chinese, this is called "active guidance." The central government cautioned local authorities not to be too robust in doing so. A spokesman for the Ministry of Education said it would not encourage parents "by means of coercion, especially as a condition for enrolling students in primary and secondary schools." A teacher told the F.A.Z. that at her secondary school, students were "encouraged" until even the last ones had been vaccinated. Thus, a vaccination rate of over ninety percent was achieved among twelve to seventeen-year-olds.
In June, the Chinese regulatory authority had already approved two inactivated vaccines from the manufacturers Sinovac and Sinopharm for the age group between three and 17 years. Initially, however, the older age groups were given priority. In September, a Corona outbreak at four elementary schools and two kindergartens in Fujian province had prompted calls for vaccination of younger children. A recent study in the Lancet journal rated the Sinopharm vaccine as "safe and well-tolerated" for children of that age. In Cambodia, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, and Argentina, the two Chinese vaccines have now also received emergency approval for children aged three and six, respectively.
Meanwhile, Corona restrictions were tightened again in numerous Chinese provinces after a good 200 new infections were reported in recent days. A lockdown was imposed on the city of Lanzhou on Tuesday. The four million inhabitants may leave their houses and apartments only in exceptional cases. Individual residential areas in the capital Beijing were also cordoned off. The marathon planned for Sunday was canceled.
In the capital, the conditions are also particularly strict because of the upcoming Winter Olympics in February. Travelers from cities where one or more infections have been reported in the past two weeks are only allowed to enter Beijing in urgent cases, said the deputy head of Beijing's public security bureau. Even Beijing residents are being turned away at the city border.