Deliveries making a difference, experts say, especially with aid to nations in need
Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha holds vials of the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine, developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, as the first shipment of 200,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday.
GENEVA — China’s vaccines have been making a crucial contribution to the global COVID-19 response as an ever-increasing number of countries receive the vital supplies — much of them donated, experts said.
Rasmus Bech Hansen, head of British research firm Airfinity, said China’s role in the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has been significant.
Developing countries have been struggling in the vaccine rollout due to their limited capacity to store supplies at ultralow temperatures, and one advantage of the Chinese vaccines is that they require less cold storage, he said.
“They are easier to distribute, easier to contain. Especially for middleand low-income countries they play a significant role and I would expect that going forward,” Hansen said.
China has pledged to continue to provide COVID-19 vaccines to other countries, especially the developing ones, and reiterated its commitment to making them a global public good.
The country supported its companies in conducting joint research and production of vaccines with foreign partners. It has exported its Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines to countries including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Turkey and Chile.
Among the most recent recipients is the Dominican Republic, where authorities in the Caribbean nation on Tuesday night received a shipment of the Sinovac vaccine.
The cargo was received at the airport in the capital by a delegation headed by Vice-President Raquel Pena.
“The arrival of this important batch of vaccines against COVID-19 will strengthen the already started national vaccination plan, and thus bring peace, hope and tranquillity to the Dominican family,” said Pena.
Also on Tuesday, Egypt has received 300,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China, the country’s health ministry said.
In Europe, officials in Hungary are urging people to trust in the vaccines already approved by the country ahead of a planned rollout on Wednesday of the Sinopharm vaccine.
About 275,000 people will receive the Chinese shot this week, said State Secretary Istvan Gyorgy. “Every vaccine available in Hungary is safe and able to provide protection against virus infection.”
Hungary will be the first country in the European Union to administer a Chinese vaccine, and officials expect the Sinopharm vaccine will provide a sharp increase in the country’s vaccination rate.
In West Africa, Senegal launched its COVID-19 vaccination campaign with the Sinopharm vaccine in the capital Dakar on Tuesday.
The nation received 200,000 doses of the vaccine last week. Shots are being given to healthcare workers, people aged over 60 and those with underlying health conditions.
However, Hansen stressed that there is still an enormous mismatch between supply and demand and that production needs to be scaled up at a faster pace around the world.
“The bottleneck is really production. There are a few large producers, China being one, India being another, the United States, some in Europe.
But really what the world needs is an ability to produce at scale more broadly,” the chief executive said.
“We basically need many more vaccines that are available. Any vaccine out there is a good thing and helps solve the world’s problem.”
China has signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, officially joining COVAX in early October, a global initiative working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available to lower-income countries.
“On COVAX, China has candidates that are taking part in COVAX and I would also expect China fullblown to go in as part of the COVAX deliverable and play an important role and I think the signs we have seen so far from China with a significant amount of exports point in the right direction,” Hansen said.