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China expected to reach herd immunity by end of year, says expert

By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-12-11 19:39
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Zhong Nanshan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, speaks during a sub-forum of the Greater Bay Science Forum 2021, which opened on Saturday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

China's vaccination against the novel coronavirus is highly expected to reach the herd immunity level by the end of 2021, according to a leading Chinese respiratory disease expert.

"As many as 1.15 billion people in China have already been fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, laying a solid foundation for herd immunity in the country," said Zhong Nanshan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

Zhong made the remarks during a life science meeting, part of the Greater Bay Science Forum 2021, which opened on Saturday in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province.

Zhong estimated that China's vaccination rate would be able to reach over 83 percent by the end of the year, given its current rate has reached 81.9 percent.

Zhong called on joint efforts by Chinese scientists and their international counterparts to develop vaccines against the Omicron, as the new variant of the coronavirus had posed new challenges in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The pandemic has now become a new normal, and it has to be handled in a systemic, scientific and standardized way," he said.

Theoretically, China would achieve its herd immunity only when its vaccination rate reaches 83 percent, according to Zhong.

"We know little about the Omicron variant, from the source, its transmission rule and pathogenic mechanism to therapeutic targets of the virus. We also know little about vaccine antibody and drug research against the variant," said Zhong.

The top priority to contain the virus is vaccination, according to Zhong.

"A certain proportion of the population should be fully vaccinated within one year to achieve the herd immunity," he said.

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