China to offer 10 million vaccine doses to Covax

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BEIJING, China (AFP) — China plans to provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 jabs to the WHO-backed international vaccine distribution programme Covax, Beijing said Wednesday as it seeks to reframe perceptions of its role in the pandemic.

The Covax programme, which aims to provide two billion doses of vaccine, pools funding from richer countries with the intention of ensuring poorer nations can inoculate their health workers and most vulnerable citizens, on the basis that the pandemic would remain a global threat if it was not tackled worldwide.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Wednesday that China “decided to provide 10 million vaccine doses to Covax, primarily to meet the urgent needs of developing countries.”

The foreign ministry said last month that three Chinese vaccine makers, Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino, had formally applied for inclusion in the Covax stockpile. Wang did not say on Wednesday if the applications had been approved.

COVID-19 first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, and the country has faced criticism over its early handling of the outbreak.

Beijing has signed agreements to supply millions of doses in what analysts have called “vaccine diplomacy” to earn goodwill among poorer countries. Meanwhile, the country has ramped up a domestic vaccine campaign ahead of the Lunar New Year travel rush.

But take-up has been slower abroad for Chinese vaccines compared to jabs from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, as little information has been published about the safety or efficacy of Chinese vaccines. Chinese vaccine makers also have chequered reputations, after major scandals at home involving expired or poor quality products.

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