(ECNS) -- The reason that China chose to adjust its COVID-19 response measures at this juncture is directly related to national elderly vaccination, said Liang Wannian, head of the COVID-19 response expert panel under China's National Health Commission when interviewed by state broadcaster CCTV.
Now the elderly vaccination rate has reached over 80 percent in China. After vaccination, the effective duration of antibodies is limited despite their protection against severe illness and death, Liang added.
June and July in 2023 should have been a suitable time for the shift when respiratory disease is less prevalent. However, the active immunity of elderly vaccination would be in decline at that time, he said.
"I went to the Hong Kong SAR in February 2022. The first thing I found was that 94 percent of deaths there involved elderly people," Liang added.
After careful analysis, he found that less than 15 percent of the elderly were vaccinated despite the overall vaccination rate in Hong Kong exceeding 86 percent, he added.
In February last year, the vaccination rate in the Chinese mainland was more than 80 percent, but the elderly vaccination rate was less than 40 percent even a few months ago, he said.
When responding to whether the summer of 2022 was a good time for the shift, Liang said it was not suitable because the vaccine booster and overall vaccination rates for the elderly group in China had failed to meet expectations at that time. So the country took that period to further strengthen elderly vaccination, he added.