China should consider vaccinating children aged under 12 against COVID - China CDC expert

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A staff member waits outside a booth where people receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination center, during a government-organized visit, in Beijing, China, April 15, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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BEIJING, Sept 16 (Reuters) - China should consider inoculating children aged under 12 to further boost its vaccination drive, an expert at China's disease control authority said on Thursday, as data showed over 70% of the population have received their COVID-19 shots.

The country has completed giving full doses to 1.01 billion people, or around 72% of its 1.4 billion population as of Sept. 15, data from health authorities showed, making it among the countries most highly vaccinated against COVID-19 in the world.

But Wang Huaqing, chief expert for China's immunisation program at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China has to stay vigilant as the highly transmissible Delta variant undermines the effort to build herd immunity.

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"Only when more people are vaccinated can the effect of (vaccines) be truly realised," Wang told a news briefing. "People under 12 years of age, who are yet to be vaccinated, should be considered too (for China's immunisation programme)."

The comments come as an outbreak in the southeastern province of Fujian has led to 200 local cases in less than a week, including infections among unvaccinated students of at least five primary schools and four kindergartens, data from local authorities showed.

China's two main vaccines, developed by Sinovac and Sinopharm, have been approved for use in children from the age of three but authorities in charge of the vaccination rollout have yet to make children under 12 eligible for the programme.

China should continue improving its immunisation strategy against COVID and develop better vaccines, Wang said.

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Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Ryan Woo; Editing by Toby Chopra and Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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