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Global Times

4th shot to be in consideration; Vaccination rates, medicine stockpiles and medical resources to be focus of China's COVID-19 prevention strategy: expert

Global Times

By Global Times Published: Mar 21, 2022 02:19 AM

Zhang Wenhong, Shanghai-based renowned infectious disease expert noted at a forum on Saturday that China will explore smarter COVID-19 prevention and control strategies, emphasizing that vaccination rates, medicine stockpiles and medical resources will be the focus of China's future epidemic management.

On whether a fourth shot of the vaccine should be adopted in China, Zhang said that it will be taken into consideration in the near future.

"I have noticed that countries like Singapore and Israel have been preparing for a fourth shot of the COVID-19 vaccine," Zhang said in a live broadcast. "I believe that Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland will be considering adopting the fourth shot after the latest round of outbreak."

Zhang said the domestic vaccination rate must reach a fairly high level before considering reopening borders.

"The most important target for protection is the senior population. In China, where the epidemic is better controlled, the level of vaccination of the senior population is relatively low," Zhang said, noting that it is crucial to gradually establish an immune barrier against Omicron.

In addition to vaccines, China also needs to be equipped with a relatively good stockpile of medicines, Zhang said, adding that "a series of overseas drugs have completed phase III clinical studies and are on the market, and some drugs developed internationally or domestically are written into the new COVID-19 treatment playbook to adequately protect high-risk populations and keep the risk of infected individuals turning critically ill at a low level."

However, Zhang also warned that even with very good vaccination rates and drugs, some Western countries still experience an important number of deaths from COVID-19 infections in senior population after opening.

"Because of the high infection rate of the Omicron variant, the overall number of deaths will still rise and will have a negative impact despite the low rate of death," he said, emphasizing that China must ensure adequate medical resources.

"Our treatment capacity has much improved from the beginning of the epidemic and the overall virulence of Omicron has declined significantly," Zhang said.

"However, the crowding of medical resources due to mass infections has still resulted in the death of a large number of infected people in some Western countries, so it is important to have a very good reserve of medical resources to deal with the outbreak," the expert mentioned.

"According to the latest version of the playbook, patients with minor illnesses can stay out of hospital. Cities with ample medical resources are able to have backup hospitals for necessary support, as well as some cities have established new mobile hospitals," Zhang said, pointing to the need to adequately reduce deaths through plenty medical resources.

"Now, we are actually getting closer to success in the fight against the epidemic and our technical resources are becoming increasingly adequate," Zhang noted.

Zhang mentioned that he believes the final victory over COVID-19 will come in the near future.

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