Chinese Officials Feud in Public over Mandatory, Unwanted Coronavirus Vaccinations

A child receives a vaccination shot at a hospital in Rongan in China's southern Guangxi region on July 23, 2018.
AFP/Getty Images

China’s top national health officials on Sunday chastised local authorities for pushing too hard with mandatory vaccination orders and “compulsory for all” methods, which a spokesperson for the National Health Commission (NHC) deemed “inappropriate.”

China’s state-run Global Times insisted the vaccination effort is going smoothly, aside from a few isolated cases of local officials displaying a “lack of organization and management,” which foreign media are blowing out of proportion to make China look bad:

In the latest case, officials from the township of Wancheng in South China’s Hainan Province revoked a controversial COVID-19 vaccine inoculation notice which claimed that people who are not vaccinated would be banned from public transport and entering public venues such as restaurants and supermarkets. “We sincerely apologize for the improper way that we mobilized vaccination,” reads a statement released by the local government.

However, some foreign media reports exaggerated these rare cases and attempted to smear China’s incentives to promote vaccination by interpreting it as “a campaign prompting a backlash among residents,” and that some are “being forced” to receive vaccinations.

Interviews with people who did not get vaccinated conducted by the Global Times showed they did not get a shot either because they are not eligible due to age or health criteria, or they believe the virus is far away from them and there is no need to be vaccinated as China is safe enough.

The Global Times also dismissed foreign media reports that many Chinese citizens are “unwilling to get a shot because they do not trust the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines,” trashing overseas studies that questioned the effectiveness of products like the vaccine produced by Sinovac Biotech.

The Chinese central government has been fretting over its low vaccination rate, which is partly due to citizens feeling no great urgency to get vaccinated for a disease that was supposedly eliminated from China half a year ago, and partly a result of lingering apprehension over scandals in the Chinese pharmaceutical industry. 

At the moment, citizens undecided about vaccination are getting very mixed signals from top officials on if the Chinese vaccines are safe and effective. Deutsche Welle on Tuesday quoted Chinese citizens, including medical workers, who said they are not even told which vaccine they will receive if they agree to get inoculated.

Deutsche Welle noted the Chinese public also seems to be increasingly aware that other countries, such as Chile, are experiencing massive coronavirus waves after buying vaccines from China, calling the effectiveness of those medicines into question. This would explain why state media like the Global Times is so heatedly denouncing foreign news reports.

China’s vaccination drive became distinctly coercive last month, as local officials ran out of carrots to encourage vaccine participation and began turning to sticks. This apparently made the public trust their government even less, which prompted officials to use even more threats and punishment – a spiraling situation that has become uncomfortable enough for top Communist Party officials to chastise their subordinates for doing exactly what they thought the Politburo wanted.

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