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African countries among first to benefit from Covid-19 vaccine

The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

The new Ambassador-designate of the People's Republic of China to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong. Photo: Supplied/Embassy of China in South Africa

Published Oct 27, 2020


By Chen Xiaodong

On October 8, China officially joined Covax, fully demonstrating the sense of responsibility of China as a major country that always honours its commitment.

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Since the outbreak of Covid-19, on such multilateral occasions as the 75th UN General Assembly, the 73rd World Health Assembly, the Extraordinary G20 Summit on Covid-19 and the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against Covid-19, President Xi Jinping pledged that once the development and deployment of Covid-19 vaccine is completed in China, it will be made a global public good and that developing countries, especially African countries, will be among the first to benefit.

China is currently stepping up vaccine co-operation with the UAE, Brazil, and African countries like Morocco and Egypt.

Covid-19 is still raging around the world, posing a severe threat to the safety and health of people in all countries.

The research and development (R&D) of Covid-19 vaccines which serve as a powerful shield against the virus is difficult and expensive, with high risks.

Without adequate resources and the capability to develop and produce their own vaccines, African countries and other developing countries are worried that Covid-19 vaccines may become a geopolitical tool.

On its part, China has honoured its commitment by taking concrete steps to enhance the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in developing countries, thus making important contributions to the global fight against the pandemic.

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China is building a global community of health for all with concrete actions. Covax is a global vaccine plan advocated by the World Health Organization (WHO). Its main purpose is to co-ordinate global resources, accelerate vaccine R&D, production, and fair distribution. This is in line with China’s goal of making the Covid-19 vaccines global public goods, to achieve vaccine accessibility and affordability. China’s accession to Covax will ensure that developing countries, including African countries, have equitable access to appropriate, safe and effective vaccines.

The Chinese government supports and facilitates Chinese vaccine companies’ efforts to join Covax and provide vaccines for developing countries, especially African countries, through this channel.

Multiple Chinese vaccine enterprises have expressed to Covax their readiness to participate. Experts of the two sides are in close communication regarding the vaccines R&D, certification, regulation and other technical standards, so as to ensure the accessibility and affordability of the vaccines as global public goods.

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Not long ago, when visiting the Chinese vaccine manufacturers, the African envoys to China said China’s commitment that the Covid-19 vaccines would be provided to developing countries on a priority basis as global public goods represents an important step China has taken to build a global community of health for all. They are looking forward to strengthening co-operation with China in vaccine R&D to help Africa defeat the pandemic at an early date. Some African scholars also believe that, as a leading country in vaccines, China’s participation in Covax and its commitment are of vital importance to Africa and the rest of the world.

China firmly upholds multi- lateralism. During the summits commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, President Xi Jinping pointed out that we shall give full play to the key leading role of the WHO, and enhance solidarity to launch a global battle to beat this pandemic.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, China has always upheld multi- lateralism, actively participated in and supported the global response to the pandemic, and firmly supported the WHO in playing a leading role in global anti-pandemic co-operation.

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China has donated a total of $50million (R800m) to the WHO, provided a large amount of anti- pandemic supplies to the WHO and countries around the world, and shared its best anti-pandemic practices and diagnosis and treatment protocols with other countries. China has also called on the international community to increase its political support and financial input to the WHO.

Joining Covax is a concrete step taken by China to support the leading role of the WHO in the global fight against the pandemic.

China has earnestly fulfilled its responsibility as a major country. Up to now, 11 vaccines developed by China have entered clinical trials, and four of them are in phase III. Although China is leading the world in terms of the R&D and production capacity of Covid-19 vaccines, we still decided to join Covax, aiming to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to African countries and other developing countries, as well as to encourage more capable countries to join and support Covax.

With a population of nearly 1.4billion, China has a huge demand for vaccines. If the Chinese side purchases too many vaccines due to its large population in absolute terms participating in Covax, it will inevitably lead to fewer vaccines available to other countries. Therefore, China decided to join Covax at a scale of 1% of its total population - that is, 15 million people.

Such a move reflects China’s active participation in global co-operation against Covid-19, but also takes into account the actual interests of other countries.

As countries around the world are still speeding up vaccines, there is great uncertainty in the future pricing of the vaccine.

However, China will definitely provide the vaccines to the world as a global public good with fair and reasonable prices. We will also provide the vaccines to developing countries, including African countries, through donation and assistance.

Faced with the raging pandemic around the world, the top priority for all countries is to focus on vaccine production and fair distribution so as to save more precious lives, rather than politicising and stigmatising the pandemic.

China will continue to uphold the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, and promote global anti-pandemic co-operation so as to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines and protect the lives and health of people around the world.

* Chen is the Chinese ambassador-designate to South Africa.

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