China compared its plan to provide COVID-19 vaccines to several African countries as an altruistic display of “vaccine diplomacy” to the promises of other countries.
Wu Peng, the director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Africa Department, told reporters that “some countries that have said they have to wait for their own people to finish the vaccination before they could supply the vaccines to foreign countries.” This was an apparent reference to the accusations that the United States is hoarding vaccines.
“We believe that it is, of course, necessary to ensure that the Chinese people get vaccinated as soon as possible, but for other countries in need, we also try our best to provide vaccine help,” Wu said.
U.S. President Joe Biden pledged on Monday to share an additional 20 million vaccine doses in the coming weeks, but he did not reveal which countries will receive them. In total, the U.S. has pledged to share 80 million vaccine doses.
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The doses will come from existing U.S. production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks. The administration previously committed to share about 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June.
The U.N. Security Council called on Wednesday for accelerated availability of COVID-19 vaccines for Africa, expressing concern that the continent has only received about 2% of all vaccines administered globally.
A presidential statement approved by all 15 members at a council meeting on African issues reiterated the need for “equitable access” to quality, affordable COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.
China’s vaccine diplomacy has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to an Associated Press tally.
With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.
Egypt will start locally producing China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in June, with Sinovac enabling the Egyptian side to obtain the expertise and technical assistance to produce the vaccine, giving the license to manufacture and pack the vaccine in Egypt.
“Aid alone cannot solve Africa’s vaccine issues. We must support local manufacturing of vaccines in Africa, even though this is difficult due to (low) levels of industrialization,” Wu said.