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Dr Zhong Nanshan said on Saturday that the disease should be battled with mass vaccination, rather than herd immunity. The expert said herd immunity – a theory initially championed by the UK Government – would cause too many deaths.
Herd immunity is the situation where enough residents of a specific place have acquired immunity to a pathogen so that it cannot be transmitted within the group.
Dr Zhong said: “A country needs to have 60 to 70 percent of its population to be infected [for herd immunity].
“If so, seven percent of those would die [from the disease].”
The epidemiologist added that the concept could result in 30 to 40 million deaths. He did not clarify how the figures were obtained.
“That’s shocking. It is too costly,” he added.
Dr Zhong addressed millions of people online at a live-streamed health conference organised by Chinese search engine Baidu.
He said: “Some of them could be used for emergency maybe by the end of this year.
“We believe in the autumn or winter this year if they are needed for an emergency.”
Dr Zhong’s vaccine timeline was also previously mentioned by Dr Gao Fu, director-general of China ‘s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
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Dr Gao said in late April that China was set to have a fruitful vaccine for the virus by September.
The expert said the vaccine would be used for emergencies like a new outbreak of coronavirus.
Dr Gao told state broadcaster CGTN in an interview: “To develop a vaccine or specific drug, it always takes time.
“Because the vaccine will be used on healthy people, you wanna make sure the vaccine you’re developing is safe and efficient.”
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The virology expert claimed that China is fronting global research for a vaccine against the pathogen.
“Maybe by September, we might have a vaccine to be used for emergencies,” he said.
“For example, if we have some emergency outbreak again.”
Dr Gao said that the “emergency vaccine”, which would be in its second or third phase of clinical development, could be used on healthcare workers before the rest of the public.
“In my opinion, maybe we will get a vaccine for healthy people early next year,” the Chinese official stated.
A report published on Sunday by China’s central government revealed that the country is currently trialling five types of coronavirus vaccines.
China is also setting up dozens of high-grade biosafety labs to research the most contagious viruses.
“We need to hold technological confidence in certain fields,” said Chen Wei, an army general and virologist supervising China’s most propitious vaccine.
“We need to depend on our own strength, instead of others, to protect the population of more than one billion people.”
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