Conflicting orders from Chinese authorities at the central and municipal levels were issued throughout the past week regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.
The Chinese Communist Party has handled vaccine mandates for students and government workers in an inconsistent manner. Several provincial governments mandated vaccination or required vaccine certificates for students to enroll in the coming school year, and for public servants to be able to come to work. However, central government announcements have all called for voluntary vaccination.
China’s National Health Commission announced on July 20 that more than 1.4 billion doses of the vaccine were administered across the country.
Beijing recently announced that its goal is to have 80 percent of its 1.4 billion citizens vaccinated by the end of this month, according to a BBC report.
As students in China prepare to return to school, officials in several provinces gave varying orders for students or families to receive vaccinations.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “informed, consented, and voluntary” are the basic principles for nationwide vaccination, the Global Times reported on July 17.
China’s top health officials have urged local authorities to halt mandatory vaccination since April, the report stated.
The health department in Pingxiang County, Hebei Province, issued, then deleted, vaccination orders on China’s primary social media app WeChat.
“The province requires that 12- to 17-year-old students must complete two doses of vaccination during the summer vacation. All schools should check the certifications of COVID-19 vaccination,” the local health department said in a statement released on July 14.
“Students who have not completed the vaccination will be refused entry to school.”
The recent regulations also required parents of students attending kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools to get vaccinated.
In southern Guangxi Province, students wouldn’t be allowed to go back to school as scheduled unless every family member registered in their households was fully vaccinated, according to a local COVID-19 Prevention and Control office release from last week.
The official account of Ruijin Radio & TV Station in Jiangxi Province stated that students would need to submit vaccination certificates for all family members prior to school enrollment.
Meanwhile, similar regulations appeared in other provinces across China, including Hainan, Yunnan, and Shaanxi. Deadlines varied from late July to August.
A similar situation also played out last week for government employees in Henan Province’s Tanghe County. On July 14, public employees, including retired staff, who weren’t vaccinated were forbidden to return to work and their salaries were suspended.
“[Each department should] ensure that no one is left out,” the document stated.
Yet the county government officially announced on July 17 that the new rule has been scrapped without implementation, claiming these front-line workers had achieved full vaccine coverage.
The report said the county of more than 1 million people received a total of 908,881 doses of the COVID vaccine.
Netizens questioned mandatory vaccines as going against an individual’s will, and said it was an attempt to achieve a high-ranking national vaccination rate. One comment on China’s Twitter-like Weibo criticized the policies as being “without method and patience.” The netizen wrote: “[The authorities] allow rigid implementation when they encounter complexity.”