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As citizens in China grapple with the virtual end of pandemic restrictions and rush for medicines from cold remedies to traditional options, even some prescription antivirals such as Paxlovid are appearing online, while cheaper but unauthorized Indian generic versions have quickly sold out. Meanwhile, a renewed vaccination effort is targeting high-risk individuals and second booster shots as the country faces a huge surge in cases.
In a significant policy shift and following recent public unrest, China now appears to be moving away from its strict "COVID Zero" restrictions to salvage a floundering economy hard hit by repeated lockdowns, as part of which it is looking to accelerate the approval of new vaccines and increase vaccination rates in the elderly.
Three years since the first cluster of SARS-CoV-2 infections were reported in Wuhan, China has finally put the first nail in the coffin of its strict "COVID Zero" policies. But as Beijing begins to relax its most restrictive rules, citizens remain concerned about ballooning infections, while a low vaccination rate among seniors and vaccine fatigue appear to be dimming hopes of a quick revitalization of the hard-hit economy and bruised consumer confidence.
In what appears to be a step towards a gradual shift away from its strict "COVID Zero" policies, China is poised to approve its first mRNA vaccine - in this case developed domestically - and will accelerate the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in general to seniors over 80.
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