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Support for developing nations hailed

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2021-10-26 09:23
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A fresh batch of a COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese drugmaker, is warmly received at the airport in Pasay City, near the Philippine capital Manila, on Sunday. ROUELLE UMALI/XINHUA

Beijing's quick response with vaccines demonstrates enduring ties, experts say

Ben Hanson, a consultant physician in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, regards himself as being fortunate as the pandemic has swept the world.

"I was one of the fortunate frontline essential workers to gratefully be vaccinated over a year ago with Sinopharm, and it probably saved my life, as it did for so many others," Hanson said.

As China celebrates the 50th anniversary of restoring its seat at the United Nations, Chheang Vannarith, president of the Asian Vision Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and other experts have recognized China's crucial role in helping developing countries fight the pandemic.

"Without China we could not imagine how these countries could get access to vaccines," he said.

Since developed countries were able to get most of the vaccines as a result of signing early contracts with private vaccine producers, Chheang said, China had helped to fill the distribution gap and promote vaccine equity.

For example, China acted first to deliver domestically made COVID-19 vaccines to Thailand in February. By last Wednesday China had provided 46.65 million doses to the country, the Chinese embassy in Bangkok said. Bangladesh received 6.5 million vaccine doses from China last Tuesday, including 1 million donated. The Philippines received a new batch of the Sinovac vaccines on Sunday.

At this year's general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 21, President Xi Jinping said China aimed to provide 2 billion doses to other countries by the end of this year.

In addition to donating $100 million to the World Health Organization's COVAX facility, China will donate an additional 100 million doses to other developing countries this year.

"China has been a firm believer of making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good and has done its best to supply vaccines to the world," Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry said. China had provided more than 1.5 billion doses to more than 100 countries and international organizations by Oct 17, he said.

China's support during the pandemic serves as testimony to its commitment to stand together with developing countries.

Chheang said collaboration with vaccine manufacturing between China and regional developing countries is also important, given that COVID-19 is expected to persist for a long time and that more shots will be needed to build long-term immunity.

Joint production

While two Chinese vaccines, Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac and Sinopharm's Vero Cell, are included in the COVAX project, Chinese companies have also carried out joint vaccine production in countries including Algeria, Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Last December, the UAE became the first country to deliver Sinopharm COVID-19 shots to the general public. The vaccine is now being made in the country under a joint venture and is distributed across the world under the name Hayat Vax.

"Vaccine collaboration between China and the UAE to help protect people against COVID-19 was visionary and has saved many lives, especially in the developing world," said the consultant physician Hanson, who is also chief executive officer of the Dubai consultancy Rivers International Management Services.

Surasit Thanadtang, director of the Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center at the National Research Council of Thailand, said it is important that China has provided timely information to other developing countries, because "the sooner the better".

China's sharing is transparent and responsible and widely appreciated, Surasit said.

Jan Yumul in Hong Kong contributed to this story.

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