China Moves to Match G-7 Vaccine Push With Pledge for 2 Billion Shots
President Xi Jinping pledged to dramatically expand Covid-19 vaccine exports to two billion doses this year, matching commitments by Group of Seven nations amid warnings about inoculation shortages in the developing world.
Xi announced the goal in a written address to a forum on international vaccine cooperation hosted Thursday by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, state media including China Central Television said. The country also planned to donate $100 million to Covax, the international program backed by the World Health Organization that provides developing countries with vaccines, Xi said.
The developing world is counting on shots from Chinese developers, such as Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm Group, to slow the spread of the virus, even though they appear to be less effective than vaccines developed in the West using newer technology. Earlier this week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged developed nations to share their supplies instead of redirecting them toward booster shots.
The pledge announced by Xi would represent a huge increase in the pace of Chinese exports, with the Foreign Ministry telling reporters Friday that the country had so far sent the equivalent of 770 million shots overseas. Two billion doses would match total commitments announced by G-7 nations as of their June meeting in the U.K.
Asian nations not including the Middle East have so far received about 39% of Chinese vaccines shipped abroad, or more than 300 million doses, according to a rough breakdown provided by the Foreign Ministry. Another 30% has gone to Latin America, while 21% has gone to the Middle East and about 2.3% has been sent to Africa.
Wang Xiaolong, director-general of the ministry’s Department of International Economic Affairs, blamed logistical issues for the relatively slow shipments to Africa. He said China was seeking to speed up its supplies developing nations on the continent and elsewhere and urged more Chinese producers to join the international inoculation effort.
President Joe Biden has ramped up American vaccine shipments after the U.S. was accused of hoarding supplies to concentrate on its own population. That effort has been boosted by increased demand for mRNA shots by Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc., which studies have shown to be more effective against virulent variants such as delta.
Both the U.S. and China are counting on vaccine diplomacy to rebuild international prestige after early missteps in the pandemic. Criticism of China’s handling of the first outbreak in the city of Wuhan drove a sharp rise in negative views toward the country globally, while confidence in U.S. expertise has been shaken by runaway outbreaks that have infected more than 35 million Americans.
Chinese exports are likely key to meeting demand for the developing world, where health experts warn that the virus’s unchecked spread could breed more dangerous -- and vaccine-resistant -- variants. Xi last year pledged to make the country’s vaccines a “global public good.”
Wang Xiaolong, the Foreign Ministry official, said countries shouldn’t compete with each to provide vaccines.
“We’re in a race, but this is not about a race against one another,” he said. “This is a race against time. This is a race against a common enemy, which is the virus and the pandemic it has caused.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.