Beijing city offers elderly COVID shot-related health insurance to ease hesitancy

People pass by a poster encouraging elderly people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near a residential compound in Beijing, China March 30, 2022. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

BEIJING, May 27 (Reuters) - China's capital is offering elderly residents state-backed insurance for "medical accidents" linked to COVID-19 shots to ease vaccination hesitancy among those most vulnerable, as Beijing ramps up inoculations during its worst outbreak.

Chinese officials have pointed to relatively lower vaccination rates among the elderly as a key weakness in its "dynamic zero-COVID" strategy.

The city of 22 million people had fully inoculated 97.7% of its adult residents as of September last year, but only 80.6% of people aged 60 and over had received their first dose by mid-April this year, according to city officials.

The new insurance plan, with premiums covered by the government, aims to "alleviate concerns over vaccination among the elderly group and their family members", state television reported late on Thursday, citing information from the Beijing office of China's banking and insurance regulator.

The insurance policy payout could be as high as 500,000 yuan ($74,200) per person for a single benefit, according to the report, which didn't provide specific details of the plan.

Elsewhere, several districts in the northern city of Tianjin, also battling a fresh Omicron cluster, have pledged to "strictly limit" entry into venues such as stadiums for unvaccinated senior citizens who don't have medical conditions that render vaccination unsuitable.

($1 = 6.7380 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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