The claim: China recovered from the coronavirus without a vaccine.
After months of research, coronavirus vaccines are on the horizon in the United States.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. If approved, distribution is likely to begin in mid-December.
But some — like the page Trump Nation — have taken to Facebook to question whether a vaccine is truly necessary for the nation to recover from COVID-19.
“Why did China recover without a vaccine? And why doesn’t anybody talk about it?” its post reads.
Trump Nation has not responded to a request from USA TODAY for comment.
More: Fact check: What’s true and what’s false about coronavirus?
China has used strict measures to succeed in controlling COVID-19
It’s true that China appears to have succeeded in its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, per statistics from the World Health Organization.
Though it has a population of 1.4 billion, China has reported fewer than 100,000 coronavirus cases and fewer than 5,000 deaths. In contrast, the United States — which has a population of 330 million — has had over 13.5 million cases and 271,000 deaths.
While China quickly distributed an experimental vaccine, much of the success China has had is attributable to the speed and strictness of its response, according to an analysis in The Lancet.
Gregory Poland, the director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, noted that “the speed of China’s response was the crucial factor.”
On Jan. 23, the city of Wuhan was placed under a strict lockdown, which lasted 76 days. Similar measures were implemented in every city in the surrounding Hubei Province. Dozens of other cities also enacted “family outdoor restrictions” that permitted a single member of each household to leave every few days to collect supplies.
China also quickly set up an effective national system of coronavirus testing and contact tracing. In just a few weeks, it tested 9 million people in Wuhan for COVID-19.
Around the country, population movement was both tracked and curtailed — enabled by 14,000 health checkpoints at transportation hubs and other surveillance tools.
China also benefited from high compliance with public health measures, like wearing face masks and social distancing.
This photograph taken on August 17, 2020 shows a medical worker taking a swab sample from an elementary school student, to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus before schools open for the new semester, in Handan in China’s northern Hebei province.
Citizens who were not adhering to the guidelines were rebuked by loudspeakers blasting the reminder, “You shouldn’t walk around without wearing a mask.”
Overall, there was significantly less resistance to coronavirus countermeasures in China than in the United States, Poland explained.
“In China, you have a combination of a population that takes respiratory infections seriously and is willing to adopt non-pharmaceutical interventions, with a government that can put bigger constraints on individual freedoms than would be considered acceptable in most Western countries,” he said.
More: Fact check: Dr. Anthony Fauci did not say masks contributed to Spanish flu deaths
China began widespread vaccinations before the rest of the world
On top of its strict measures, China has used vaccines to combat the coronavirus.
In fact, China started vaccine trials and authorized vaccine use before the rest of the world, according to a recent report in Science Magazine.
On Feb. 29, seven of the country’s military scientists became the first individuals in the world to receive injections of an experimental coronavirus vaccine.
The maker of those vaccines — CanSino Biologics — then launched the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine trial in Wuhan on March 16, beating Moderna by eight hours.
Vaccine trials typically occur in three phases: Small cohorts receive the vaccine in Phase I and Phase II, before thousands more receive it in Phase III.
More: Fact check: Moderna vaccine funded by government spending, with notable private donation
China has not waited for results from Phase III to offer the vaccine to wide swaths of its population, including individuals who work in health care, schools, supermarkets and public transportation.
In June, CanSino Biologics received emergency use authorization to vaccinate the military. Since then, it has vaccinated “thousands” of troops, per CEO Yu Xuefeng.
The China National Biotec Group — a subsidiary of the state-owned Sinopharm Group — and Sinovac Biotech have also received authorization to offer their vaccine candidates to large populations.
Sinopharm Chairman Liu Jingzhen announced in late November that almost 1 million Chinese citizens had received its vaccine, according to the South China Morning Post.
“In terms of emergency use, the vaccines were applied to nearly a million people and there has not been a single case of a serious adverse event. People have had only mild symptoms,” he said.
Sinovac has also set up several vaccination sites in the Zhejiang Province, where several hundred vaccine doses are sold each day on a first come, first served basis for the equivalent of about $60 in out of pocket costs, per NPR.
Our ruling: Partly false
Based on our research, the claim that China recovered from the coronavirus without a vaccine is PARTLY FALSE. China has succeeded in its efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 within its borders in large part due to the speed and strictness of its measures. But it has also used vaccines, and actually began vaccinating large swaths of the population before the rest of the world. Just one company has already vaccinated 1 million citizens.
Our fact-check sources:
World Health Organization, WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard
The Lancet, Oct. 8, China’s successful control of COVID-19
Science Magazine, Nov. 25, With global push for COVID-19 vaccines, China aims to win friends and cut deals
South China Morning Post, Nov. 19, Coronavirus: 1 million Chinese injected with Sinopharm vaccine under emergency use scheme
NPR, Nov. 12, China Is Inoculating Thousands With Unapproved COVID-19 Vaccines. Why?
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Strict lockdowns, COVID-19 vaccine helped China recover