In a statement announcing the Covax deal, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China is confident it can increase production. “We are taking this concrete step to ensure a fair distribution of vaccines, particularly in developing countries, and we hope that the most capable countries will also join and support Covax,” Hua said.
China’s turnaround now leaves two leading vaccine countries, the US and Russia, out of the alliance. Other supporters include Japan, Great Britain, Germany and the European Union.
The White House said last month that it would not join WHO-led Covax because it did not want to be “bound by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China.”
The Trump administration loudly attacked WHO and withdrew funding after agency officials appeared to repeat Chinese government talking points and praise Beijing’s response to the pandemic despite Chinese officials’ missteps and cover-ups in the early days. crucial days. WHO officials also prevented Taiwan, which has boasted exemplary success in controlling the virus, from participating in its forums under political pressure from Beijing.
Although China absorbed intense international criticism after the outbreak spread from Wuhan in January, the government quickly brought the coronavirus under control at home and began an aggressive diplomatic effort to repair its image overseas with donations of masks and medical equipment.
While rejecting international requests for an investigation into the origins of the virus, the Chinese government has presented itself as far-sighted and altruistic: speaking before the WHO assembly in May, Chinese leader Xi Jinping promised $ 2 billion in two years to help the Covid-19 response and said any future Chinese vaccine would be a “global public good” – a statement the government repeated Friday announcing its participation in Covax.
The Covax program seeks to equally distribute a pool of at least 2 billion vaccines to high-risk people in each country. Although vaccine producing countries are expected to share as part of Covax, participation in the program represents a kind of insurance policy: countries that fail to produce an in-house vaccine could be excluded from the global pool if they don’t join Covax.
China has four vaccines in phase three of clinical trials, nearly half of the nine vaccines globally that are in the final development phase. The United States and Germany are both involved in two multinational projects, while a Russian vaccine and one from AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford in Great Britain are also in the final stages.
Vaccine experts welcomed China’s entry into the program.
Jerome Kim, head of the International Vaccine Institute, an independent non-profit organization founded as part of the United Nations Development Program, praised Xi for calling the vaccine a global public good and said it was important that China, an economic powerhouse with several candidate vaccines in the final phase of the test, showed “solidarity and support” for the fight against covid-19.
“Importantly, the three organizations that lead Covax must now work to ensure that China’s commitment can be fully realized: that the vaccine from Chinese manufacturers meets WHO pre-qualification standards, that it is safe and effective, and importantly , can be provided at a reasonable cost, “Kim said.