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In Its War on Covid-19, China Calls on ‘Little Inoculated Warriors’

Jacob Scott

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As the rest of the world struggles to vaccinate adults in the face of a threat from a new coronavirus variant, China has embarked on an ambitious campaign that it says will give the country better protection against Covid-19: full inoculation of 160 million of its youngest citizens by the end of the year.

The campaign — powered in part with red flower stickers, balloons and boxes of toys for children who step up to become what nurses call “little inoculated warriors”— has gotten off to a fast start. In the first two weeks of the effort, which began in late October, 84 million boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 11, about half of the eligible population, received the first of two shots, according to the most recent government data.

By contrast, in the United States, 2.6 million children between ages 5 and 11, or about 10 percent of the eligible population, received one dose over roughly the same time period.

The push is part of Beijing’s unrelenting march toward herd immunity, the point at which enough people are immune to the virus that it cannot spread through the population. With less than three months before the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Chinese officials are doubling down on that strategy. And with 1.1 billion adults already vaccinated, young people are seen as an important part of its success.

The campaign faces significant obstacles, including parental reluctance in a country with a checkered history of safety on children’s vaccines. The government insists that child inoculations are voluntary, but parents have described coming under pressure to get their children vaccinated.

When You Xun declined to have his 3-year-old son vaccinated in the city of Ningde, the boy was suddenly sent home from school. “Urgent notice! Urgent notice! Please, parents of all the babies who haven’t had the Covid vaccines, come to the kindergarten now to take your child home,” the message said.

Many parents rushed to have their sons and daughters inoculated, worried that they would not be allowed to attend school otherwise. Mr. You and his wife decided not to, fearing that the vaccine might not be safe for young people. After several days of silence from the kindergarten, he visited local authorities to complain about his son’s apparent expulsion.

Officials told him that there was no rule forbidding unvaccinated children to attend class. So Mr. You took his son back to school the next day. “From top to the bottom, it is a disguised pressure campaign to enforce vaccination,” he said.

Though Chinese vaccines are generally considered safe, the country also has a history of administering spoiled shots and guarding any information about negative incidents.

In a 2018 scandal, possibly hundreds of thousands of children were injected with ineffective vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. And in 2013, 17 infants died after receiving a Chinese-made hepatitis B vaccine. While that vaccine has been widely used since, the authorities moved quickly to silence critics.

Get Ready for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Just a few months after Tokyo, the Olympics will start again in Beijing on Feb. 4. Here is what you need to know:

Herd immunity is a goal most countries have abandoned — particularly with the emergence of new variants such as Omicron and Delta — but one that China has set as a prerequisite for reopening its borders.

“Their hope is that by increasing the vaccination rate, it will give them the confidence to open up in the future,” said Yanzhong Huang, director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall University.

Getting there will be difficult, in part because the country’s vaccines appear to be less effective than their Western competitors. By relying solely on its current vaccines, “China is unlikely to build this herd immunity,” he said.

That has not stopped officials from working tirelessly to get vaccines into the arms of the country’s smallest citizens. Kindergarten teachers across the country have sent out personal appeals urging parents to “hurry up” and get their students vaccinated. “Please respond to the national call to guide your child to take the initiative and actively get vaccinated,” one education bureau wrote in a public letter to parents.

In the eastern city of Hangzhou, in the southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, and in Beijing, kindergartens have sent out notices in private chat groups with parents suggesting that vaccination is required, according to interviews and messages reviewed by The New York Times. The parents are often asked to answer publicly whether their children have received a shot. If the parents decline, they are asked to submit in writing the reason for not getting their child vaccinated.

Responding to a request for comment, officials at the education bureaus in Guangzhou and Ningde said vaccination for children ages 3 to 11 was not mandatory. An official at the Guangzhou office said no directive had been issued to prohibit children without vaccines from attending school.

In June, China approved the use of its Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines in children between the ages of 3 and 17. But until late October, only children 12 and up were being given shots, with the exception of at-risk children who were younger.

Though limited data has been provided, the two vaccines were approved based on Phase 1 and 2 trials showing them to be safe for children. The National Health Commission has said the safety and effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine for young children “does not differ significantly” from that for older children and adults.

Still, some parents are uneasy.

On Nov. 5, Nicolas Zhang got a message in the chat group he shares with other parents from his 5-year-old daughter’s kindergarten class in the southern city of Shenzhen. The school informed the parents that their children were required to get vaccinated, Mr. Zhang said. He and his wife, who are both vaccinated, hesitated.

“After massive vaccinations in our country, how many of them have had adverse reactions?” said Mr. Zhang, 35. “There is also no public media to do the follow-up, nor any government department to deal with it publicly.”

China is the world’s last zero-Covid holdout, and officials have shown no willingness to change course. Cities of millions of people continue to be locked down during minor outbreaks; tourist sites like Shanghai Disneyland have been shut down to carry out on-the-spot testing. People who lie about infections, hide symptoms or try to escape quarantine do so under threat of prison.

“This is about the collective force, so that if you don’t comply you will be left behind. Your kids will be looked down on by the community and their teachers,” said Bei Wu, a professor of global health at New York University and an expert in China’s public health policy.

Despite the lingering doubts of parents like Mr. You and Mr. Zhang, China will probably succeed in getting most of its youngest citizens inoculated by the end of the year. The authorities have galvanized nurses, doctors and community health workers to convince every parent that their child should roll up a sleeve not only for their own health, but for the good of the country.

The ruling Communist Party has pointed to the country’s low Covid-19 numbers — fewer than 5,000 people have died — as evidence that China’s authoritarian model is superior to the rest of the world, even as its borders remain closed and ordinary citizens find their personal freedom severely restricted during outbreaks.

“What we need is collective freedom, social freedom and national freedom,” Zhong Nanshan, China’s top disease expert, said. “Only with these freedoms can we have individual freedom.”

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‘Moon Knight’ Took Marvel in a Different Orbit, but It Didn’t Rise to the Occasion

Jacob Scott

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Before anyone writes that off as an anomaly, “Eternals” tackled a similar introduction of a dense mythology on the bigger screen, with equally mixed results. It’s a reminder that while film-goers have had more than a decade to get to know characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, introducing some of these lesser-known heroes can pose a more formidable challenge beyond catering to the most ardent fans.
For Marvel, there are warning signs in that, since “Moon Knight” will be followed by several series based on second-tier characters, although the next two on the horizon, “Ms. Marvel” (which is due in June) and “She-Hulk,” at least have the benefit of sharing franchises and name recognition with existing Avengers.
Ultimately, “Moon Knight’s” murky storytelling appeared to squander its principal assets, which included the cool look of the character — a costume that was too seldom used — and the presence of Isaac, who possesses additional genre credentials via the “Star Wars” sequels.

Taking its time in peeling back the layers of the character’s complicated backstory, “Moon Knight” took a weird plunge into the Egyptian mythology behind it, in ways that became increasingly confounding and surreal.

By the time the protagonist’s two halves, Steven Grant and Marc Spector, wound up in a psychiatric hospital talking to an anthropomorphic hippo in the penultimate chapter, the question wasn’t so much being able to keep up with the story as whether bothering to do so was worth the effort.

The sixth and final episode brought the plot to a messy close, seeking to stop the goddess Ammit from proceeding to “purify the souls of Cairo, and then the world.” In the customary credit sequence, the producers capped that off by introducing a third personality, Jake Lockley, also rooted in the comics. While that seemingly spelled the end for the show’s villain (Ethan Hawke), the finish — giving the god Khonshu the protégé he sought — paved the way for further adventures should Marvel so choose.

That last twist might be cause for celebration in narrower confines of the Marvel fan universe, but “Moon Knight” too often felt like it was one long Easter-egg sequence, conspicuously preaching to that choir.

Granted, Marvel has made clear that Disney+ offers the chance to explore different kinds of stories, but “Moon Knight” feels at best like a quirky showcase for Isaac and at worst a failed experiment in terms of execution and tone.

That doesn’t mean this “Moon” won’t somehow rise again, if the closely held streaming data justifies it. But the promise that surrounded this property has faded, providing further evidence that even Marvel isn’t immune from setbacks as it moves into its next phase.

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Start-up Pony.ai says it’s the first self-driving company to get a taxi license in China

Jacob Scott

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Autonomous driving start-up Pony.ai can collect fares for robotaxi rides in parts of two major Chinese cities as of Sunday.

Pony.ai handout

BEIJING — Self-driving start-up Pony.ai announced Sunday it received a taxi license, the first of its kind in China.

The license allows Pony.ai to operate 100 self-driving cars as traditional taxis in the Nansha district of the southern city of Guangzhou, the company said.

The Chinese start-up, which is backed by Toyota, received approval from Beijing city late last year to charge fees to operate a commercial robotaxi business in a suburban district of the city. It is not the same as a taxi licence.

Baidu’s Apollo Go also received approval in the same Beijing district last year.

Pony.ai was valued at $8.5 billion in early March. The company said its Nansha taxi license required 24 months of autonomous driving testing in China and/or other countries, and no involvement in any active liability traffic accidents, among other factors.

The start-up said it plans to launch commercial robotaxi businesses in two other large Chinese cities next year. The company is already testing self-driving cars in those cities and in California. 

Robotaxis in China currently have a human driver present for safety.

— CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal contributed to this report.

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How to watch Timberwolves vs. Grizzlies: TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

Jacob Scott

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Who’s Playing

Memphis @ Minnesota

Current Records: Memphis 2-1; Minnesota 1-2

What to Know

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road trip will continue as they head to Target Center at 10 p.m. ET this past Saturday to face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Memphis will be strutting in after a win while Minnesota will be stumbling in from a loss.

The Grizzlies are hoping for another victory. They beat the Timberwolves 104-95 this past Thursday. The victory came about thanks to a strong surge after the first quarter to overcome a 39-21 deficit. Memphis’ success was spearheaded by the efforts of power forward Brandon Clarke, who had 20 points in addition to eight rebounds, and shooting guard Desmond Bane, who shot 7-for-15 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points and six boards.

Barring any buzzer beaters, Memphis is expected to win a tight contest. They might be worth taking a chance on against the spread as they are currently on a two-game streak of ATS wins.

Memphis’ win brought them up to 2-1 while the Timberwolves’ defeat pulled them down to a reciprocal 1-2. A couple offensive stats to keep in the back of your head while watching: The Grizzlies come into the game boasting the second most points per game in the league at 115.6. But Minnesota is even better: they rank first in the league when it comes to points per game, with 115.9 on average. Tune in for what’s sure to be a high-scoring contest.

How To Watch

When: Saturday at 10 p.m. ET Where: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota TV: ESPN Online streaming: fuboTV (Try for free. Regional restrictions may apply.) Follow: CBS Sports App Ticket Cost: $76.96

Odds

The Grizzlies are a slight 2.5-point favorite against the Timberwolves, according to the latest NBA odds.

The oddsmakers had a good feel for the line for this one, as the game opened with the Grizzlies as a 3-point favorite.

Over/Under: -110

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History

Memphis have won 19 out of their last 28 games against Minnesota.

Apr 21, 2022 – Memphis 104 vs. Minnesota 95 Apr 19, 2022 – Memphis 124 vs. Minnesota 96 Apr 16, 2022 – Minnesota 130 vs. Memphis 117 Feb 24, 2022 – Minnesota 119 vs. Memphis 114 Jan 13, 2022 – Memphis 116 vs. Minnesota 108 Nov 20, 2021 – Minnesota 138 vs. Memphis 95 Nov 08, 2021 – Memphis 125 vs. Minnesota 118 May 05, 2021 – Memphis 139 vs. Minnesota 135 Apr 02, 2021 – Memphis 120 vs. Minnesota 108 Jan 13, 2021 – Memphis 118 vs. Minnesota 107 Jan 07, 2020 – Memphis 119 vs. Minnesota 112 Dec 01, 2019 – Memphis 115 vs. Minnesota 107 Nov 06, 2019 – Memphis 137 vs. Minnesota 121 Mar 23, 2019 – Minnesota 112 vs. Memphis 99 Feb 05, 2019 – Memphis 108 vs. Minnesota 106 Jan 30, 2019 – Minnesota 99 vs. Memphis 97 Nov 18, 2018 – Memphis 100 vs. Minnesota 87 Apr 09, 2018 – Minnesota 113 vs. Memphis 94 Mar 26, 2018 – Memphis 101 vs. Minnesota 93 Dec 04, 2017 – Memphis 95 vs. Minnesota 92 Feb 04, 2017 – Memphis 107 vs. Minnesota 99 Nov 19, 2016 – Memphis 93 vs. Minnesota 71 Nov 01, 2016 – Minnesota 116 vs. Memphis 80 Oct 26, 2016 – Memphis 102 vs. Minnesota 98 Mar 16, 2016 – Minnesota 114 vs. Memphis 108 Feb 19, 2016 – Memphis 109 vs. Minnesota 104 Jan 23, 2016 – Minnesota 106 vs. Memphis 101 Nov 15, 2015 – Memphis 114 vs. Minnesota 106

Injury Report for Minnesota

No Injury Information

Injury Report for Memphis

Dillon Brooks: Game-Time Decision (Foot) Santi Aldama: Out (Knee) Killian Tillie: Out (Knee)

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