Observation is the foundation of scientific discovery and looking at what happened in China is very instructive.
China then faced a huge surge in COVID-19 cases which subsequently died down quickly.
China had initially opted for a zero covid policy, with very strict lockdowns and monitoring to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This strategy had some benefits initially, until the arrival of Omicron. This variant of the virus is so transmissible and often subclinical, it is therefore difficult to stop spread across the community.
Once it was acknowledged that Omicron could not be stopped, the Chinese government had to rescind on the zero covid policy, but how and when?
Initially in Australia and New Zealand where there were low Covid cases numbers, it allowed Public Health time to vaccinate the general population. However, in these countries, Omicron is still circulating.
How was that possible, when most of the developed world is still struggling with circulating Omicron virus?
China primarily used Sinopharm, a whole virus injectable vaccine, for COVID-19 and limited the use of mRNA (Pfizer & Moderna) and vector based vaccines. They have only just recently developed their own mRNA vaccine technology.
In this circumstance of Western countries using primarily spike based vaccines, these COVID-19 vaccines did not elicit adequate mucosal immunity (upper airway), and seems to not have skewed the immune response to becoming spike focused on SARS-COV2 reinfection.
In reality, the Sinopharm whole virus vaccine has allowed the mucosal immune system to develop a broad mucosal response paralleling that of natural immunity.
Important to note, this was accidental and not a well worked plan.
China has gained the benefit but cannot take full credit.
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It’s not the vaccine! It’s pre-existing immunity
Herd immunity from the surge. With fast spreading Omicron, acquiring population level herd immunity was also quick. No contamination of this herd immunity from the past. Population had no exposure to previous variants (closed society) and the vaccine effects would long have disappeared when Omicron struck them. Fresh vaccinations simply could not keep up. So, the surge disappeared as quickly as it came. Scientifically, this is evidence that natural immunity from exposure is the best. Somewhat cynically one could say that this is the upside of zero covid policy, but in human and economic terms, this must have cost country a bomb. Not an approach for the future, but there is a lesson of science (epidemiological) to be learnt. Like Sweden, allow the infection to spread. But unlike Sweden, focus on the sick and infected with early treatments, based on related diseases and symptoms. In less than an year, the virus could have been bottled up. Like the West, China too ignored early classical treatments. It may have contained Omicron quickly, but not without the cost of immense human suffering.