China joins COVAX coronavirus vaccine alliance

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - China, which has at least four coronavirus vaccine candidates in the final phase of clinical trials, joined an international initiative on Friday to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries around the world known as COVAX The country to find an international market for its coronavirus recordings.
The country signed an agreement on Thursday with Gavi, the co-head of the project, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Initially, China was unwilling to join the alliance after missing an early deadline to join in September.
"We are taking this concrete step to ensure fair distribution of vaccines, especially in developing countries, and we hope that more efficient countries will join and support COVAX," said ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in a statement. She later added this at a daily press conference. Many Chinese vaccine companies expressed their willingness to join the partnership and that China would buy vaccines for about 1% of its population through COVAX.
The exact terms of the deal and how China will contribute to it are not yet clear. Countries can buy vaccines to cover up to 50% of their population. However, many developed countries use COVAX as a type of insurance policy to get extra doses on top of bilateral contracts with pharmaceutical companies.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping previously said the country will make the vaccine a global public good and distribute its shots in Africa - but only after China's own vaccination program has been completed.
The World Health Organization, which also leads COVAX, welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that "the number of countries joining the COVAX facility is growing every day and we are pleased that China is officially joining."
The initiative is designed so that richer countries agree to buy potential vaccines and fund access for poorer ones. However, critical questions remain as to how the goal is to be achieved. Many countries, including the UK, US, France, Germany and others, have directly negotiated their own contracts with pharmaceutical companies to receive billions of doses, meaning the vast majority of the world's vaccine supply will already be reserved for the next year.
Some experts point out that without a significant effort to rapidly increase production capacity around the world, Chinese vaccine manufacturers may offer the best opportunities to serve developing countries. China's decision to join COVAX could give the country the opportunity to sign the multi-million dollar contracts that Gavi and his partners need to enter into in order to receive billions of doses of vaccine.
The United States, the world's largest economy, declined to join President Donald Trump, saying COVAX was "influenced by the corrupt WHO and China". China has the second largest economy in the world.
"China's accession to COVAX serves the dual purpose of filling the leadership vacuum left by the United States on global public health and securing a future vaccine for the population," said Natasha Kassam, research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia.
A successful vaccine candidate from China could help restore its reputation overseas. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that negative views about China in some countries rose sharply in 2020. Views in democratic countries have intensified after the coronavirus outbreak was first spotted in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, with a majority of respondents saying China handled the outbreak poorly. Many criticized China for hiding early reports of COVID-19.
China sought to reshape the narrative, calling the virus a common challenge for humanity, and even questioning its origins. Previously, as the pandemic spread around the world, it sent medical teams and relief supplies to affected countries. More recently, she has signed agreements with developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines to give priority access to one of her vaccine candidates, and has offered a $ 1 billion loan to countries in Latin America.
It remains to be seen how China will work with the alliance, said Dr. Gagandeep Kang, vice chairman of the board of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), who is also involved in leading COVAX. Most countries are stepping into COVAX to gain access to vaccines that are not domestically made, she said.
China could try to ensure that the vaccines it is developing find a global platform. “For China, it could cover the entire spectrum. So that their vaccines participate in vaccine delivery (to other countries) and have access to vaccines, ”said Kang, who is also a microbiologist at Christian Medical College in the Indian city of Vellore.
For example, Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac recently announced that it would make its vaccine available to the world, including the United States and European countries, with strict regulations that have prevented the sale of previous Chinese vaccines.
COVAX plans to purchase 2 billion doses of a vaccine by the end of 2021, although it is not known whether the successful vaccine will require one or two doses.
To date, China has not yet released any information about any of its late-stage vaccine candidates, although it has begun to use some more widely in target groups. Without this data, it is unclear how safe and effective the Chinese experimental vaccines are.
Associate press writers Aniruddha Ghosal in New Delhi and Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

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