dr Fauci is concerned China’s retreat from COVID Zero comes with risks

dr Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned of the risks of a planned China withdrawal from its zero-COVID policy – and reiterated that the pandemic is not over yet.

On Wednesday, China eased some of its quarantine requirements to move away from its zero-COVID policy, which at times included major city lockdowns. The move comes after anti-government protests erupted across China over the tough anti-COVID measures.

But “reopening” without the widespread rollout of vaccines — particularly Western vaccines, which are said to be more effective than Beijing’s — would be at great risk, Fauci said.

“Unless they do and do proactive immunization campaigns and open up, there will be a wave of infection that will certainly be associated with a certain severity of the disease,” Fauci said Financial Times’ Global Boardroom Conference on Wednesday.

experts previously said wealth that its population has limited immunity to infection due to China’s zero-COVID approach due to an overall lack of contact. That, coupled with low vaccination rates among older residents and less effective vaccines — Fauci said — could unleash a huge wave of infections.

When that happens, there’s an increased chance of mutations, Fauci said, that could give rise to new variants. New variants can sometimes spread faster than the original virus, as seen with Omicron.

“Whenever you have a big wave of transmissions of a virus, give it ample opportunity to mutate,” he said. “And if you give a virus the opportunity to mutate, it can potentially create new variants. And once you get a brand new variant, it could impact the rest of the world.”

Still, Fauci said China’s strategy has been “flawed” from the start because the country hasn’t used its lockdowns to vaccinate its population. In conversation with the Washington Post Last week, Fauci said policies like China’s zero-COVID should have an “endgame” and a purpose.

“In the era of vaccination, you might want to narrow down until you can vaccinate your entire population, particularly the high-risk elderly, but it turns out that’s not the case,” he said. “Vaccinating the elderly was not well done and the vaccine they had was not a particularly effective vaccine.”

Fauci advised giving China’s citizens more effective vaccines.

“I would suggest that they import western vaccines, particularly the highly potent mRNA vaccines that are used in most countries around the world,” he said. “Unfortunately, the original Chinese vaccines didn’t have the effectiveness of some other vaccines.”

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