China to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines globally this year: Xi

BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) -- China will strive to provide 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to the world throughout this year and offer 100 million U.S. dollars to COVAX, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday in a written message to the first meeting of the international forum on COVID-19 vaccine cooperation.

Photo taken on July 31, 2021 shows China-donated COVID-19 vaccines arriving at the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport in Zanzibar, Tanzania. (Photo: Xinhua)

The 100 million U.S. dollars to COVAX will mainly go to the distribution of vaccines to developing countries, he said, adding that China would do its best to help developing countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

China is committed to building a global community of health for all and has provided vaccines to the world, especially developing countries. The country actively carried out joint production, which illustrates the concept of vaccines as global public goods, Xi stressed.

Promoting equitable access to vaccines

"I hope this forum will promote the accessibility and fair distribution of vaccines around the world, strengthen solidarity and cooperation in developing countries, and make new contributions for an early victory against the pandemic," Xi said in the written message.

In May, President Xi announced China's five measures to further support global solidarity against COVID-19 at the Global Health Summit. They include setting up an international forum on vaccine cooperation for vaccine-developing and producing countries, companies, and other stakeholders.

The forum on Thursday marked a further practical step by China to explore ways of promoting the fair and equitable distribution of vaccines, said Ruan Zongze, executive vice president of the China Institute of International Studies. The forum is themed "strengthening international cooperation on vaccines, and promoting fair and equitable distribution of vaccines around the world."

Ruan added that China shouldered more than its due responsibility, and China's donation of COVID-19 vaccines will certainly help countries in need to move a step closer to achieving herd immunity.

Since September 2020, China has provided vaccines to countries in urgent need and has been donating vaccines to more than 100 countries. Meanwhile, China is exporting vaccines to more than 60 countries, with the total amount exceeding 770 million doses, ranking the first globally, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said while chairing Thursday's meeting.

China is committed to building a global community of health for all and has provided vaccines to the world, especially developing countries. The country also actively carried out joint production, Xi said, adding that it illustrates the concept of vaccines as global public goods.

The Philippines has been tortured by the pandemic, with 60 percent of its population below the poverty line. The country is hugely concerned about the affordability of COVID-19 vaccines, said Enrique Gonzalez, CEO of IP Biotech company in the Philippines.

"It's China that helped the Philippines, and thanks to the Chinese government and China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd., 15 million people in the Philippines have completed one or two doses of the vaccination within a short time," Gonzalez said. He added that this reflects the friendship between the two countries in the face of the pandemic and demonstrates that China is always acting as a major responsible country.

Championing global cooperation

As of Wednesday, nearly 200 million people globally have contracted the virus, with the global death toll reaching 4.2 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Amid a surging COVID-19 caseload, largely driven by the Delta variant, China has made its call for strengthening international cooperation on vaccines.

"We are willing to work with the international community to promote international vaccine cooperation and build a community with a shared future for humanity," he said.

The important decision by China demonstrates the responsibility and vision of a major country, said Ruan Zongze, adding that China is using practical actions to build a global community of health for all and ensure the availability and affordability of vaccines.

"China lends a helping hand to developing countries in response to their genuine needs and makes up for shortcomings in international vaccine cooperation. It will help enhance the confidence of the international community in overcoming the pandemic," said Ruan, noting that China's deeds are in sharp contrast with the selfish and hypocritical attitudes of some other countries.

From vaccine development and production to vaccine distribution, China always adopts an open and cooperative attitude, actively responds to countries' requests for vaccine cooperation, and launches cooperation with them.

China is also the first to cooperate with developing countries on vaccine production. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Indonesia, and Brazil have become the first ones in the region to have the production capacity of COVID-19 vaccines, which charted a new chapter of unity and self-reliance among developing countries, Wang Yi said.

Participants at the first meeting of the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation issued a joint statement, in which they underline the importance of vaccine multilateralism and call upon countries to enhance international cooperation mechanisms and collaboration. They also urge rejecting vaccine nationalism, lifting export restrictions on relevant vaccines and raw materials, and supporting enhanced cooperation on vaccine research and development, production, equitable distribution and ensuring cross-border flows of vaccines.

The need for global cooperation around vaccines and public health is essential and urgent, said Anthony Zwi, a professor of Global Health and Development at the University of New South Wales. He added that the pandemic will only be defeated if the international community works together -- collaboratively and in solidarity with the peoples of the world.

"International politicization of the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has been and will continue to be counter-productive and unhelpful to achieving the global public-health good of pandemic control," said Zwi.