Skip to content

The Persistent Vaccine Hesitancy of China’s Elderly

A child receives a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine.

A child receives a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine.

Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

Hi, this is Dong in Beijing. The Chinese capital just announced the country's first vaccine mandate, only to less than two days later revoke it amid a public pushback. But first …

For many governments around the world, it was a no-brainer to prioritize the elderly in Covid-19 vaccination campaigns. But not for China. That's leading to persistent vaccine hesitancy in the age group where the shots make the biggest difference.

More than a year after China kicked off the world's biggest Covid vaccination effort, only half of those aged 80 and above were fully immunized, the government said in March. It hasn’t updated the numbers since then. In Shanghai, the elderly vaccination rate stagnated in the first half of the year, and was a little over 63% near the end of June, despite a bad outbreak and repeated pleas from government and health care workers to get the shots.

In the US, over 90% of those aged 65 years and older are fully vaccinated.