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China, US should lift COVID-19 travel bans if herd immunity reached

The United States is the worst-hit nation in the world by case count, with nearly 30 million infections so far, though new cases have been declining. As of Sunday, 15 percent of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

March 02, 2021 / 12:00 PM IST
FILE PHOTO: Travellers wait at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 2, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Travellers wait at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, China January 2, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

China and the United States should remove all barriers to travel between the two countries if the United States achieves herd immunity for COVID-19 with 90 percent of its population vaccinated, potentially by August, a Chinese epidemiologist has said.

The United States is the worst-hit nation in the world by case count, with nearly 30 million infections so far, though new cases have been declining. As of Sunday, 15 percent of the US population has received at least one dose of a vaccine.

"By August it could be reach 90 percent to reach herd immunity, so if that's the case, if we could remove all political barriers, just based on the science, the two countries could possibly be the first two countries to remove all barriers for free travel," Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist of China's Center for Diseases Prevention and Control, said on Monday.

China has COVID-19 largely under control, with relatively small clusters of new local infections in recent months. No new community cases have been reported in mainland China since late January.

"China is the safest country in the world in terms of COVID-19," Wu told an online forum organised by Tsinghua University and the Brookings Institution, a US think tank.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Wu said he hoped the vaccination rate in the United States could reach over 80 percent by June.

China, with a population of around 1.4 billion, has administered 40.5 million doses as of February 9.
Reuters
first published: Mar 2, 2021 11:45 am

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