China joins WHO-backed international coronavirus vaccine program

China is collaborating in a World Health Organization-backed vaccine effort, stepping in to fill a void in international health leadership created by the Trump administration.

Beijing on Thursday joined the $18 billion Covax initiative that aspires to offer lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry mentioned. Details of China’s dedication, together with its amount of funding, weren’t immediately disclosed.

“Even when China is leading the world with several vaccines in advanced stages of R&D and with ample production capacity, it still decided to join Covax,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement Friday. “We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support Covax.”

President Xi Jinping promised in May that vaccines developed by China would be made a world “public good” to be shared by all. In current months, Beijing had been sending optimistic alerts, suggesting it might participate within the Covax program, without committing outright.

The choice additionally might turn out to be another level of contention with the U.S., as tensions between the world’s two greatest economies spiral on fronts from commerce to technology and human rights. The Trump administration has refused to join Covax, with a spokesman for the White House saying the U.S. wouldn’t “be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China.”

China’s participation is an enormous win for Covax, as the potential of providing doses to even a fraction of China’s 1.4 billion individuals would enhance crucial mass, enhancing the alliance’s negotiating power.

Covax is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the vaccine alliance Gavi. It at present has 9 vaccines in development and 9 under analysis in its portfolio, with a goal to secure 2 billion doses by 2021.

For China, participation would provide a de facto insurance policy that enables it to access to any successfully developed vaccine. Beijing might additionally provide manufacturing support for a profitable vaccine, no matter which nation develops it.

The choice might additionally help the country’s image following widespread criticism from overseas over the way it dealt with the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, the place Covid-19 first emerged last year. China has been a front-runner in creating vaccines for the coronavirus. Nine of China’s vaccine candidates have entered medical trials, and 4 of them received approval for last stage Phase III clinical trials in foreign countries

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