BEIJING (Reuters) – Some local authorities in China have resorted to “simple and crude” measures to push people into getting COVID-19 vaccines, a state media outlet said on Wednesday, warning against such behaviour as China ramps up its inoculation efforts.
Shanghai and the provinces of Hubei and Heilongjiang have stressed they will treat vaccination as an important “political task”, government websites and official media reports showed, while some Beijing districts have handed out shopping coupons or groceries as incentives, and given certificates to businesses where vaccination rates among staffers top 80%.
But the opinion piece in Wednesday’s Xinhua Daily Telegraph warned against taking such efforts too far.
“Some schools and authorities pegged vaccination to students’ graduation and performance assessment of teachers; some institutes ignored employees’ physical condition and required oversimplified full vaccination; some authorities interfered with firms’ normal operation in order to speed up vaccination,” the article said.
In an accompanying photo, a notice was pasted on the door of an unspecified business at an unspecified location that had been told by authorities to suspend operations, saying: “vaccination rate in this place is below 40%. Please use caution when entering”.
After falling behind the pace of some countries, China has drastically scaled up its vaccination efforts, administering between 3.7 and 6 million doses daily since March 25, bringing the number of shots injected to 114.69 million as of Tuesday, second only to the United States.
China is racing to hit a target of vaccinating 40% of its 1.4 billion people by the end of June, although the country’s success in quashing the domestic spread of the virus, as well as vaccine wariness among many in China, complicates those efforts.
A private survey conducted in February showed less than 50% of respondents were willing to be vaccinated.
National guidelines require that vaccinations be voluntary.
Resorting to “oversimplified” measures could make some people more resistant to getting vaccinated, the Xinhua Daily Telegraph said.
A high school in the southern city of Shenzhen required faculty members who didn’t get vaccinated by the end of March to provide a written report to the principal explaining why, a person who received the notice told Reuters.
Authorities are also using less zealous measures to encourage vaccination, such as knocking on doors or using loudspeakers or banners to send messages.
A community in Beijing’s Chaoyang district is offering stickers for vaccinated people, which could exempt them from showing health code phone apps before entering office buildings, according to the ruling Communist Party-backed Beijing Daily.
(Reporting by Roxanne Liu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)