As the coronavirus pandemic continues to infect and claim lives, vaccines are crucial for countries to prevent viral transmission. However, developing countries may find it hard to get the vaccines due to the limited production capacity and rich countries snapping up them first.
However, thanks to Chinese companies, developing countries across Asia have been able to roll out the much-needed COVID-19 vaccines during the first half of 2021.
In the past six months, shipments of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines have frequently arrived in countries in Southeast and South Asia. Although, in contrast, Western countries were hoarding large quantities of vaccines to get their populations inoculated. As a result, COVAX, a program backed by the World Health Organization for supplying vaccines to developing countries, fell short of its goals.
Indonesia has received 95 million doses of vaccines so far, and Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech made 89 percent of them.
Using two Chinese vaccines, Cambodia has achieved one of the region's highest inoculation rates, with 18 percent of its population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine.
The Philippines expects to receive more than 5 million doses of vaccine from China this month.
Nepal has received 1.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese company Sinopharm, a donation from China. The country will use them to vaccinate people over 60. Dr. Krishna Paudel, the spokesperson for Nepal's health ministry, said that it fulfills a near-term gap by helping to inoculate at least one age group in the country.
Sri Lanka has received two batches of Sinopharm vaccines donated by the Chinese government and is buying more from the company.
Bangladesh has also received two batches of vaccines donated by China. The Sinopharm vaccines helped the country resume its COVID-19 inoculation drive, suspended after India halted export due to a supply crunch. The government is in talks to buy 15 million vaccine doses from the company.
In contrast, only a small number of COVID-19 vaccines made by Western companies such as Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna have arrived in Asian countries, except for wealthier countries like Singapore.
"It has certainly left an impression that when things were tough, the Chinese stepped up," Evan Laksmana, a senior researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Indonesia, told the Wall Street Journal.
The region's residents will remember "how China locked down quickly, got its own issues under control and provided vaccines," he added.