The government has stressed that the vaccination drive is voluntary, and people will have to pay for the inoculations. Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and an expert on health care in China, noted that the two-dose regimen could cost about $70, putting it out of reach for the rural poor.
China could also have problems trying to persuade people to take the vaccine. Scientists warn that the lack of transparency could raise fears about taking a new vaccine, especially in an industry that has a history of quality scandals.
Tao Lina, a vaccine expert and a former immunologist at the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said he knew of several health care workers who had declined the shots. “In the minds of doctors, they feel that any drug that has not passed Phase 3 trials is unreliable,” Mr. Tao said.
Mr. Tao, who got a Sinopharm vaccine on Monday, said he felt confident that the vaccines were safe and effective, echoing officials’ comments that there have been no reports of serious adverse reactions. But he added that the companies could do better in their messaging.
“If you say that it’s safe, then you should show all kinds of evidence to show that it’s safe,” he said.
Hminem Zhang, a 27-year-old sales employee in an internet company, said he wanted to get a vaccine because he traveled for work and feared a run on the shots if there was a resurgence of the virus. But he worries about the Chinese-made ones because “not many people have received it,” he said.
“I want to wait another month or two for some official data to come out,” said Mr. Zhang, who is based in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing. “And then, if there is no news about any side effects, I will get a shot.”
Liu Yi, Amber Wang and Elsie Chen contributed research.