Senior official says efforts still needed to improve immunization program

Updated: Apr 30, 2024 China Daily Print
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Staff members work on flu vaccines in Sinovac's vaccine R&D lab in Beijing. [Photo/China Daily]

More needs to be done to meet the vaccination demands of adults and the elderly, a senior official said, because the national immunization program mainly targets children under 6 years of age.

Li Bin, vice-minister of the National Health Commission, also said that more multivalent and combined vaccines need to be developed, and standards improved.

Amid the rapid development of biotechnologies, especially the emergence of breakthrough innovations such as the mRNA vaccine tool, Li also called on public health workers to accelerate the commercialization of innovative research and continue to improve public awareness.

While acknowledging the critical role of the national immunization program in controlling infectious diseases, Li called attention to challenges in sustaining the country's polio-free status, consolidating efforts made toward the elimination of measles and the risk of rebounds in whooping cough and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

"COVID-19 and flu are still in circulation and novel infectious diseases will continue to emerge," he said.

The national immunization program encompasses 14 vaccines that can prevent 15 contagious diseases.

Lu Jiang, deputy director of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration, said China has established comprehensive systems to supervise and manage the program's implementation.

"The nation eradicated smallpox in 1979 and was declared free of polio in 2000. It has reported no diphtheria for 13 consecutive years and the incidence rate of measles has dropped to a historic low," she said during the 2024 National Vaccines and Health Conference held recently in Xiong'an New Area in Hebei province.

The event was held by the Chinese Preventive Medicine Association and the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The program has effectively protected the health of the public and played an important role in aiding the gradual increase in the average life expectancy across the population," Lu said.

The administration will put great efforts into strengthening vaccination services, immunization information and data sharing as well as evaluation of outcomes, she added.

The coverage of the national immunization program has remained above 90 percent.

Li Qun, deputy director of the China CDC, said the nation will continue to raise the coverage rate, while beefing up the sensitivity of monitoring for vaccine-preventable diseases, and improving epidemiological research and pathology surveillance.

He added that it is also important to research vaccination strategies for diseases not covered by the program.

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