China Mandates COVID Vaccinations for Children as Young as 3

Local and provincial Chinese governments issued notices Monday that children ages 3 to 11 will now be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

China's new vaccine mandate comes as parts of the country take new measures to stamp out smaller outbreaks of the virus, and continue to enforce lockdowns, quarantine, and compulsory testing. China is one of the few countries to vaccinate young children, following Cuba who allows vaccinations for children as young as 2 years old.

China's strong vaccine mandates and a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks have resulted in 1.07 billion people out of their 1.4 billion population being fully vaccinated, 76 percent of the country.

The United States and many other countries have not begun vaccinating children as young as China and Cuba, but allow vaccinations for ages 12 and above, although the United States is moving to open vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds soon.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

China mandates vaccine for 3 year olds
Local and provincial Chinese governments issued notices Monday that children ages 3 to 11 will now be required to receive a COVID vaccination. Residents line up to receive booster shots against COVID-19 at a vaccination site in Beijing on October 25. Andy Wong/Associated Press

The National Health Commission reported that 35 new cases of local transmission had been detected over the past 24 hours, four of them in Gansu. An additional 19 cases were found in the Inner Mongolia region, with others scattered around the country.

In particular, the government is concerned about the spread of the more contagious Delta variant by travelers and about having a largely vaccinated public ahead of the Beijing Olympics in February. Overseas spectators already have been banned from the Winter Games, and participants will have to stay in a bubble separating them from people outside.

China's most widely used vaccines, from Sinopharm and Sinovac, have shown efficacy in preventing severe disease and transmission of the virus, based on public data. But the protection they offer against the Delta variant has not been answered definitively, although officials said they remain protective.

Hubei, Fujian and Hainan provinces all issued provincial level notices alerting new vaccination requirements, while individual cities in Zhejiang province and Hunan province have also issued similar announcements.

China in June had approved two vaccines—Sinopharm's from the Beijing Institute of Biological Products and Sinovac—for children ages 3 to 17, but it has only been vaccinating those 12 and older. In August, regulators approved another, Sinopharm's from the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

After the vaccines received domestic approval for children in China, foreign governments began giving the shots to children in their own countries. Cambodia uses both Sinovac and Sinopharm's shots in children 6 to 11. Regulators in Chile approved Sinovac for children as young as 6. In Argentina, regulators approved the Sinopharm vaccine for children as young as age 3.

Many developing countries left out of the race to get shots from Western pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna bought Chinese vaccines. China has shipped more than 1.2 billion doses as of September, according to its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Even with widespread domestic and global use, not every parent is reassured about the vaccine, citing less publicly available data on the shots.

Wang Lu, who lives in the southern city of Fuzhou in Fujian province, said she isn't particularly rushing to get her 3-year-old son vaccinated. "I'm just not very clear on the vaccine's safety profile, so I don't really want to get him vaccinated, at the very least, I don't want to be the first," Wang said.

Sinovac started an efficacy trial with 14,000 child participants across multiple countries in September. Its approval in China was based on smaller phase 1 and phase 2 trials. Sinopharm's Beijing shot was also approved based on smaller phase 1 and phase 2 trials. These were published later in peer-reviewed journals.

Other parents said they weren't concerned, given that many other people had already gotten the shot.

Wu Cong, a mom of a 7-year old, said her daughter's school in Shanghai hadn't yet notified them of any vaccinations.

"I think this isn't too different from the flu vaccine, there's already been so many people vaccinated, so I don't have too many worries," said Wu.