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2022-07-28 09:56:10

Several Chinese schools have been found to be linking students’ performance evaluations or even registration to their grandparents’ vaccination records, raising concerns over the measures to get older residents vaccinated against COVID-19.

A screenshot of an announcement by Xuelang Middle School in the eastern city of Wuxi showed all junior school freshmen should offer vaccination certificates of their grandparents aged 60 or above — unless there were “special circumstances” — before they started school. The announcement was published Monday, though the school told domestic media the following day that such a requirement had been canceled.

Earlier this month, the Third Central Primary School in Shanghai’s Hongkou District also launched a campaign urging its students to get their grandparents vaccinated during the summer holiday, or make a promotional poster or video if their older family members were unable to get the shot. The participation would qualify students for being selected for certain honors in the fall semester, according to a notice released by the public school.

As the highly infectious Omicron subvariant has added pressure on the country’s health system, authorities have ramped up efforts to get most of the population vaccinated, especially older residents who have lower immunity and are most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The latest data shows 84.7% of people over the age of 60 have completed a two-dose regimen of the COVID-19 vaccine, though many of them have yet to get a booster shot, health officials said at a Saturday press conference. Meanwhile, 40% of the 35 million people aged over 80 are yet to be fully vaccinated.

In a city like Shanghai with a notably aging population, the vaccination rate among those aged 60 and above lags behind the national average, with the full vaccine rate at around 66%, according to local health officials.

Responding to concerns over vaccine hesitancy among older residents due to having chronic illnesses, Shanghai health authorities said on Monday that those with such illnesses were particularly vulnerable to the virus and in more urgent need to get vaccinated.

Though experts and officials have reassured that vaccination could prevent older residents from serious illness after an infection, many remain skeptical amid claims of adverse reactions among the elderly after receiving the shots. Experts have rejected such online posts saying the vaccines would cause health risks such as leukemia and diabetes.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: An older resident receives COVID-19 vaccine in Beijing, April 18, 2022. VCG)