With the developed countries having flexed their financial muscles to gain pole position in the race to acquire COVID-19 vaccines, the World Health Organization’s green light to a second Chinese vaccine is good news for those countries that have been pushed to the back of the chasing pack.
Especially as its “easy storage requirements make it very manageable and particularly suitable for low-resource settings,” as WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines and Health Products Mariangela Simao said in a statement announcing the news on Tuesday.
The WHO’s approval of the vaccine provides a big boost to the world, which “desperately needs multiple COVID-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe”.
Those countries that were anxiously awaiting the WHO’s endorsement as a domestic legal requirement to import the vaccine will have heaved a sigh of relief as they will now be able to open their doors to it. And, having already approved the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use last month, the WHO’s nod to the Sinovac vaccine means the COVAX program will now be provided with both of the major vaccines produced by the world’s largest manufacturer of COVID-19 vaccines. Through COVAX, the WHO has distributed roughly 60 million doses so far to developing countries. But that’s a far cry from its goal of 2 billion doses for this year.
China is doing what it can. The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday, that production of the first batch it has pledged to provide the COVAX program, 10 million doses, has now been completed. In all, China has produced about 900 million doses of vaccines so far, of which more than 600 million doses have been administered at home, and the rest donated to more than 80 developing countries and exported to more than 50 countries. The safety and efficacy of the Chinese vaccines have been fully proved by these countries.
As one of the first countries to vow to make its vaccines global public goods and call on other major vaccine producing countries to follow suit, China has taken concrete actions to fulfill its pledge. It is not only the largest contributor of vaccines to the world, but also one of the most active promoters of coordinated international efforts to fight the virus. The country supports waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, and it is encouraging its vaccine developers to carry out joint production with other developing countries.
This is in stark contrast to some of the developed countries, which have hoarded vaccines beyond their actual needs. Which explains why African countries account for only 1 percent of the administered doses worldwide.
It is estimated that China can produce 3 billion doses of the vaccines by the end of this year, and its production capacity will reach 8 billion doses next year. That means it is set to serve as the main source of bullets in the global war against the virus. China Daily, Editorial