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BEIJING, Nov 29 (Reuters) - China will speed up COVID-19 vaccinations for elderly people, health officials said on Tuesday, aiming to overcome a key stumbling block in efforts to ease unpopular "zero-COVID" curbs.
The move is seen as a crucial element in a strategy to unwind nearly three years of strict curbs that have eroded economic growth, disrupted the lives of millions, and sparked unprecedented weekend protests.
The National Health Commission (NHC) said it would target more vaccinations at people older than 80 and reduce to three months the gap between basic vaccination and booster shots for the elderly.
"It is also the hope that our elderly friends, especially those over 80, will take the initiative and get vaccinated for their personal health protection," said Xia Gang, an NHC official in charge of immunisation services.
Optimising services and delivering more accurate publicity were a priority, he told a briefing.
The elderly will get easy access through special priority services, with mobile vaccination vehicles also pressed into service, the NHC said.
A publicity campaign will be launched to fight vaccine hesitancy among the aged, promoting the benefits of vaccines in staving off severe illness and death, it added.
The share of those aged 60 and older who have received two doses was 86.4% by Nov. 11, up by less than a percentage point since August, official data show.
Recipients of a booster jab made up 68.2% of the elderly population, up marginally from 67.8% three months earlier. (Reporting by Beijing newsroom and David Stanway; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)