China has devised a new incentive to boost elderly vaccinations to levels that could finally allow the country to relax its zero-Covid strategy and revive the economy: insurance packages for people worried about jab-related side effects.
Dozens of cities across the country have begun offering people aged 60 and older free insurance that pays out up to Rmb500,000 ($75,000) if they fall ill — or worse — because of Covid-19 vaccines.
The packages also promise payouts to families if it can be proven that a loved one’s death was related to receiving a jab. In Beijing alone, about 60,000 seniors have signed up for the coverage since April.
As in other countries, a large number of people in China harbour doubts about the safety of the vaccines despite a lack of evidence of a high risk of serious side effects.
But government officials and the country’s strictly controlled media shy away from discussing even routine side effects, which can include shortlived fevers, soreness and other relatively mild reactions.
This has, paradoxically, created a vacuum in which unsubstantiated rumours about alleged links between vaccines and serious diseases such as leukaemia and type 1 diabetes have spread widely on Chinese social media.