Shaoxing, a city in Zhejiang province, is carrying out an emergency COVID-19 vaccine inoculation program as the winter approaches and cases continue to rise globally.
On Tuesday, the city's health commission launched a reservation platform on its official WeChat account, allowing the public to make reservations online.
Participation in the inoculation program is voluntary, with key groups and virus-prone areas prioritized, according to a notice released by the commission.
Several COVID-19 vaccines developed by China have entered phase three clinical trials, and their safety and efficacy have met expected standards, the notice said in citing reasons for the program.
Shaoxing is the second city in Zhejiang to announce such a program. On Oct 15, Jiaxing's disease control and prevention center said in a notice that a COVID-19 vaccine inoculation program, using vaccines produced by Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, is underway in the city. The vaccines were purchased and distributed by provincial authorities.
In the notice, Jiaxing said the program will prioritize certain "key targeted groups", including medical workers, epidemic prevention workers, port quarantine staff and customs staff. Citizens who work in public urban areas or plan to travel to medium-and high-risk countries or regions were also recommended for the vaccine.
The emergency vaccination includes two shots with an interval of 28 days. The vaccine is priced at 200 yuan ($30) per shot, with an extra service fee of 28 yuan per shot. People aged between 18 and 59 can be inoculated.
Asked about the pricing of vaccines that get final approval, Zheng Zhongwei, head of China's COVID-19 vaccine development task force, said on Tuesday the pricing of those made in China would be decided by the manufacturers but should adhere to their nature of being a public good.
Moreover, the public demand for the vaccine would also be considered in determining the price, which is expected to be "within the public's acceptance range", he said.
Besides Jiaxing and Shaoxing, the emergency vaccination is also being carried out or will be launched in others cities in Zhejiang such as Yiwu and Ningbo, according to a report by ThePaper.cn on Saturday.
Nationwide, a trial system for the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines was approved in June, with the program formally kicking off in late July.
Cities in Zhejiang are the first in the country to report that they are offering such vaccines to the public, particularly groups prioritized by local public health facilities such as CDCs and inoculation clinics.
At the Jiangdong community health service center in Yiwu, there are more than 500 doses of the vaccine in stock, with more on the way, according to a staff member, who added that most of the recipients would be traveling abroad soon.
In the port city of Ningbo, frontline medical workers and people who plan to go abroad are expected to get vaccinated by the end of this month, according to the local CDC.
"I've long been waiting for the vaccine, and it is a good sign that it can be made available to the public," 23-year-old Yang Shuang, a teacher at a training school in Hangzhou, said on Wednesday.
"I will definitely register for the inoculation, and I think the vaccines are affordable."
Since September, 743,000 people in Zhejiang have received influenza vaccinations to reduce the risk of flu being transmitted during any resurgence of COVID-19, Chen Guangsheng, executive deputy director of the province's leading group for the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus, told a news briefing on Friday.