While the US on Tuesday refused to join the international effort to
develop a COVID-19 vaccine, China is pooling efforts in international
cooperation to secure a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines without
geopolitical boundaries. But experts warned the challenges and risks to
Chinese vaccine's globalization remain acute.
As China seals
commitment to support immunization amid coronavirus pandemic in
developing countries, more UN-backed alliance place great hopes on China
to join global partnerships to boost global vaccine allocation by
mobilizing its resources.
China supports the COVID-19 Vaccines
Global Access (COVAX) and has been in close communication with the WHO
and other initiators of the plan, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. Chinese authorities and vaccine
producers held a video conference on Tuesday with the WHO, Vaccine
Alliance (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations
(CEPI) to deliver a consensus to facilitate the global R&D and
distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, Hua said.
active leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside extensive
ongoing vaccine research efforts, we believe there is much room for both
Chinese public and private actors to participate in both the COVAX
Facility and the COVAX Advance Market Commitment initiatives, which will
go a long way toward ensuring that the COVID-19 vaccine, when ready,
will be available equitably to all," the spokesperson of the GAVI said
in an exclusive response to the Global Times.
public-private global health partnership linked with the WHO and tasked
with increasing poor countries' access to immunization, encourages
potential vaccine developers including those in China to submit
promising candidates for consideration for COVAX research and
development, and manufacturing funding, the spokesperson said.
number have already done so via CEPI's Call for Proposals and the COVAX
Facility. There are nine vaccines in clinical trials in China and CEPI
has two candidates with partners based in China in its portfolio."
The Chinese government said in June it will make a contribution of $20 million to GAVI's funding for the 2021-25 period.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on August 24 more than
170 countries have expressed readiness to join the COVAX Facility, a
World Health Organization (WHO) platform designed to ensure rapid, fair
and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines deemed effective worldwide.
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular
press meeting on August 25 that China firmly supports developing
countries' efforts in the health sector and honors its pledge of turning
the COVID-19 vaccine into a global public good.
pledge has been welcomed, some have voiced concern over the risk from
potential legal disputes or unrecoverable economic costs if the vaccine
is applied to wider range of countries.
But observers suggest those challenges will not affect China's determination to work with the international community.
Paulo State Governor Joao Doria displays a box of the COVID-19 vaccine
produced by the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech on July 21. Photo: AFP
some Western countries consistently alleging Chinese vaccine research
is part of a global influence campaign, China is under scrutiny in the
race to develop a vaccine. Any safety problems that arise when the
vaccine is available can shake the reputation of Chinese pharmaceutical
companies and the whole industry, experts suggested. They said this
uncertainty is aggravated considering the COVID-19 vaccine will be put
into use much faster than in normal circumstance.
Also, technology transfers and the management of intellectual property are potential risks in the vaccines' usage abroad.
have to be very clear that if Chinese vaccines break any law or
restrictions in host countries, and vice versa, whether Chinese
home-grown technology can be well protected from infringement by local
enterprises," Xu Xinming, a Beijing-based lawyer specializing in
intellectual property rights, told the Global Times.
cooperation on vaccines, ways of resolving disputes over bio-safety
(such as coping with potential side effects) should be specified in the
contract. Failing to do so risk the vaccines being politicized, the
But Xu argues the enterprises should take the lead
in cooperation and protect self-interests using international rules,
whereas governmental institutes or diplomatic tools should only be used
to assist countries in resolving disputes.
staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at
Sinovac Biotech Ltd., in Beijing, capital of China. Photo: Xinhua
report by Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy of
University of Minnesota revealed the COVID19 pandemic will likely last
18 to 24 months, while 60 to 70 percent of the population may need to
achieve herd immunity for halting the pandemic. A vaccine is believed to
be one of the most imperative key to stop the spread.
pledged to offer the successful COVID-19 vaccine to at least 10
developing countries, but most of those partners are low-income
countries, raising concerns that the high R&D costs cannot be
"Prices of vaccine supplied to low-income countries
should only be barely higher than the cost," Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based
immunological expert told the Global Times. "Vaccines offer exemplified
China's promise in initiative of the concept of 'a community with a
shared future' so its pricing is beyond a commercial issue. The cost of
R&D will be shared by the Chinese government and enterprises
Pricing of Chinese-developed vaccine follows the
principle of "not-for-profit" but it does not mean "no-profit" or "below
cost," Zha Daojiong, a professor of international political economy in
the School of International Studies and Institute of South-South
Cooperation and Development, Peking University, said in a recent opinion
piece. "China's promise to make the COVID19 vaccine a global public
good has been fulfilled in a way without making profit."
vaccines certainly qualify as a public good for global public health.
But the products are by nature capital intensive, while returns on
investment need to be met through adequate pricing of final dosage
sales. The gap between expected returns and financial capacity on the
part of end users, especially those in low income countries, can be
formidable," Zha said.