If vaccines are effective against COVID-19, why doesn’t China vaccinate its way into normalcy?

We’re informed that COVID-19 vaccines prevent nearly all serious consequences from being infected with SARS-CoV-2. COVID-19 is no worse than the common cold for those who have accepted the sacrament of mRNA vaccination. “CDC: COVID-19 Is a ‘Pandemic of the Unvaccinated'” (WebMD): “COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike in communities where vaccination rates are low, leading to what CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, called ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated.'” The Official Newspaper of the Coronapanicked pointed out “Before Omicron, a typical vaccinated 75-year-old who contracted Covid had a roughly similar risk of death — around 1 in 200 — as a typical 75-year-old who contracted the flu. … Because it is milder than earlier versions of the virus, Covid now appears to present less threat to most vaccinated elderly people than the annual flu does.” (NYT, 1/5)

China continues to incur massive costs from its efforts to control COVID-19. Cities are locked down CNN, 1/3/2022: “For 12 days and counting, Xi’an’s 13 million residents have been confined to their homes.” (unlike in the Maskachusetts “lockdown”, they can’t even leave their houses to purchase marijuana at one of the always-open “essential” cannabis dispensaries and then meet a new friend from Tinder). What had been legal norms are discarded. “Chinese police parade suspected Covid rule-breakers through streets” (Guardian):

Armed police in Jingxi, in southern China, have paraded four alleged violators of Covid rules through the streets, state media reported, a practice that was banned but which has resurfaced in the struggle to enforce a zero-Covid policy.

The four men were accused of smuggling people across China’s closed borders, and on Tuesday they were led through the streets wearing hazmat suits and bearing placards showing their name and photos. The state-run Guangxi daily reported the action was designed to deter “border-related crimes”.

A common practice during the Cultural Revolution, public shaming has long since been banned in China, and the Communist party-affiliated Beijing News said the Jingxi incident “seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again”.

(Maybe the Chinese need a lesson from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris regarding the merits of open borders and the fact that it is not necessary for those who walk across a border to take a COVID-19 test?)

Business and leisure travelers are discouraged by quarantine requirements (14 days minimum; sometimes 21 days). “This impoverished Chinese city bet its fortunes on the 2022 Winter Olympics. Then the Covid-19 pandemic happened” (SCMP): “Zhangjiakou, the city hosting many of the skiing events, is hoping the event will transform its fortunes even though few, if any, spectators will be attending.”

The Chinese are intelligent (higher average IQ than Americans). China was untainted by the anti-Science rule of Donald Trump. There is no obstacle to the Chinese following the Science and therefore believing Dr. Walensky, MD regarding COVID-19 being merely a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” (in which case it can be trivially stopped by eliminating the unvaccinated). The Chinese have tremendous wealth (soon the world’s largest economy), certainly enough to buy mRNA vaccines at retail or purchase a license to manufacture mRNA vaccines locally. The Chinese have tremendous manufacturing capability and organizational capability. Isn’t the obvious step for the Chinese to arrange to vaccinate 100 percent of the population with an mRNA cocktail and then drop all of their anti-COVID-19 measures? If U.S. states and cities can exclude the unvaccinated from public places and European countries can straight up order subjects to accept the Church of Shutdown’s sacrament (Greece and Austria), surely China’s government has the power to persuade/force the “hesitant”.

(Friend’s shortening of the above: “If Alec Baldwin has killed more vaccinated people than the Omicron variant, why doesn’t China vaccinate and reopen completely?”)

As loyal readers may recall, I’m always fascinated by apparent logical contradictions in human reasoning. Doesn’t China’s behavior reveal that one of the above assumptions is invalid? If so, which one?

From a November 2019(!) trip to Shanghai, proof that the Chinese already have the right architecture for a central vaccine injection site:

12 thoughts on “If vaccines are effective against COVID-19, why doesn’t China vaccinate its way into normalcy?

  1. The vaccines don’t work! (about the comment moderation policy my most favorite subject!: There should be some way to automatically amend my comment and fact check it. Facebook does this but not our fine host. )

  2. > “Chinese police parade suspected Covid rule-breakers through streets” (Guardian)

    In my travels today, I was listening to a station on Sirius XM called “Progress” and their commentators gathered around the idea that everyone who is unvaccinated should be bankrupted via lawsuit and people who flout the mask rules should also be similarly punished. Having been told that we’re living in a pandemic of the unvaccinated, these radio hosts were almost apoplectic in their rage – because after all, Biden is just trying to end the pandemic!

    I don’t think this is an extreme or marginal opinion among “Progressives” in this country. They described their remedies – arrest, bankruptcy, suing people into oblivion and forced vaccination – as a joyous and obvious answer to the problem!

    In my estimation, those scenes from Jingxi are only a degree of separation or two from being actively recommended on NPR.

    It seems like what they don’t want to accept is that long-lasting preventive vaccines to a coronavirus are impossible! It’s one of the central fallacies of this entire charade! Finally now, under some duress, guys like Bancel at Moderna are beginning to let that drip out in Goldman Sachs conference calls. It would have been much better from the beginning if that had been acknowledged in a very straightforward way. But that’s not how the Bullshit Machine works!

    • Classic scene. Now, maybe that new Walter Reed vaccine is going to throw a whole new curveball into the ballgame!

  3. I’ve been wondering the same thing. The Chinese know by now that Sinovac, Pfizer and Moderna don’t prevent transmission. They are testing their own mRNA vaccine in Mexico and Indonesia instead of in China, which must give the respective guinea pigs great confidence:


    “China’s Walvax is testing its mRNA candidate in placebo-controlled trials in Mexico and Indonesia, where vaccination rates for the first dose are below 60% and 64% respectively, according to Bloomberg’s tracker. ”

    (Note that Bloomberg itself has been fact-checked over e.g. Supermicro hack allegations in 2018:


    If the Walvax story is true, it is striking that our beloved Western monarchs prefer testing their own subjects by force or threat of job-loss.

    • Anon: The current official line is that, while the vaccines do not prevent transmission, they prevent nearly all serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and death. In other words, COVID-19+vaccine is no worse than the flu. If this is true and China did not previously take extraordinary measures against the flu, why is China taking extraordinary measures against COVID-19 when it is straightforward to vaccinate everyone?

    • philg: It turns out (according to Bloomberg …) that BioNTech and Moderna are still not approved in China:


      “Yet almost a year later, the shot is yet to be approved in mainland China, and in recent weeks Beijing has thrown its heft behind a homegrown mRNA vaccine, allowing China’s Walvax Biotechnology Co. to test its own experimental shot as a booster. The developments are raising new questions about whether the U.S.-German vaccine, licensed for the potentially lucrative Greater China region by Guo’s Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co., will ever be used on the mainland, where President Xi Jinping’s administration has backed a nationalist agenda on all fronts, including in the fight against the virus.”

      The question then is: Why is it not approved? I suspect a mixture of doubt in its efficacy after the winter numbers, national security (we need our own vaccine), greed, bureaucracy. Or perhaps real safety concerns?

      And of course locking people down while they are still working is not entirely unwelcome. The politburo can still party, similar to AOC’s Florida adventures.

  4. Not sure what zinger you think you got in there and don’t much care. How deprived of parental approval were you?

    I was just pointing out a basic factual error in your post. Here’s more articles:

    January 10, 2022 at 12:55 pm
    Since Hainan is mentioned in the article you’ve cited and it is an island, which should make enforcing a vaccine mandate easy, just let us know when you’ve managed to book a quarantine-free beach vacation in Hainan! (At which point we can infer that the Chinese are Trusting in the Science as promulgated by the CDC and St. Fauci.) Based on a November 2019 last-chance-before-coronapanic trip, I strongly recommend Hainan Airlines. https://philip.greenspun.com/blog/2019/12/05/hainan-airlines-review-awesome-but-bring-your-own-coffee/

    • The links that you’ve cited (forced vaccinations), combined with China’s current policies and restrictions, do not suggest faith in vaccine effectiveness at eliminating serious illness, hospitalization, and death. If everyone is vaccinated, at least in certain states within China, and COVID-19 is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, why the lockdowns, quarantines, etc.?

      (The original post’s point was slightly different due to the fact that the mRNA vaccines that we have here are slightly different from the vaccines that have been used to date in China (e.g., Pfizer is still not approved). But, as noted in the original post, there is no practical barrier to the Chinese vaccinating everyone with Moderna, Pfizer, or a local version of either.)

    • It’s interesting how you often you resort to reductio ad absurdum and false assuptions. I starting to suspect that you’re not interested in logical discussion.

      Your zinger: “If Chinese officials trusted the Covid vaccine, it would rely solely on vaccines, and wouldn’t take any other measures.”

      False assumption: “To ‘trust’ means to believe the vaccines are 100% effective.” False. A local government could conclude that the 70% effectiveness rates are relatively effective at preventing death, but still leave enough vulnerable that other measures are necessary.


    • As noted in the original post, the CDC, following the Science, says that this is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated [only]”. The New York Times, reporting on the Science, says that, even before the milder Omicron, COVID-19 was less risky than flu for a vaccinated 75-year-old. The original post is not about whether the Chinese believe that the vaccine is 70% effective (or any other number), but about whether the Chinese believe the CDC and the latest NYT statements. If they do, their policies are difficult to explain (since, for example, they did not use lockdowns and quarantines to fight flu).

      In other words, the original post is about whether the Chinese suspect something is true that we are told isn’t true, e.g., that COVID-19 is a pandemic of the vaccinated and/or that COVID-19 is more dangerous to a vaccinated 75-year-old than flu.

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