Several local governments in China are planning to bar residents who haven’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 from accessing public venues, stirring controversy as the country makes a push for herd immunity.
In recent days, a dozen counties and cities in the eastern provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Jiangxi set late-August deadlines for people 18 years or older to complete a two-shot vaccine regimen, according to similarly worded online statements. Many of them also set dates in late July by which unvaccinated people would be barred from entering schools, libraries, prisons, nursing homes and inpatient facilities at hospitals without a valid medical exemption.
Some of the localities attributed their new policies to “national, provincial and municipal arrangements,” without explaining whether they received a decree from the central government.
China is dealing with sporadic outbreaks of Covid-19 and authorities have been offering homegrown vaccines free of charge since last December.
The government notices have sparked online pushback from some Chinese and triggered a debate—as in the U.S. and elsewhere—about whether people should be required to present proof of inoculation to travel, work or undertake other routine activities outside their home. . . .
The vaccination mandates come after months in which Chinese authorities have tried to entice citizens to get inoculated by offering free milk, eggs and bubble tea—and in one city, the chance to win a free night in a luxury hotel. Some schools urged their students to get the shot, while ride-hailing companies such as Didi Global Inc. have required drivers to get vaccinated. At many state-owned firms, getting vaccinated is seen as an act of duty.
China’s National Health Commission hasn’t declared a nationwide vaccination mandate, nor has it signaled to the public that it will. It didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Tao Lina, a former immunologist at the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the central government to explicitly require people to take vaccines, but he said many more localities would follow suit and that Beijing wouldn’t stop them. . . .
News of vaccination mandates has been met with skepticism on Chinese social media, with some users saying the local authorities were going too far.
It “goes against the government’s original pledge that vaccinations would be voluntary,” wrote one user on Twitter-like Weibo, expressing a sentiment widely repeated across the platform.
A woman surnamed Wang wrote that she opposed the policy even though she had already gotten two shots. It would be unfair for people who couldn’t get vaccinated due to pre-existing medical conditions to have to then explain their conditions in public in order to enter venue sites, she wrote. She is from Jinan, Shandong province, where local authorities haven’t published such mandates.
Surveys by universities in China and the U.S. suggest that Chinese people are more accepting of Covid-19 vaccines compared with Americans. Still, some Chinese have balked at getting vaccinated because they feel the risk of infection inside China is low. Many also don’t trust Chinese vaccines to be safe and effective, in part because of past vaccine safety scandals.
I don’t blame them.