The Philippines will have quick access to a Chinese coronavirus vaccine. Latin American and Caribbean nations will receive $1 billion in loans to shop for the medicine. Bangladesh will get over 100,000 free doses from a Chinese company.
Never brain that China is still most likely months absent from mass producing a vaccine that is protected for public use. The country is the use of the prospect of the drug’s discovery in a charm offensive aimed at repairing damaged ties and bringing friends closer in regions China deems imperative to its interests.
Take, as an example, Indonesia, which has long been wary of Beijing. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, assured the nation’s president, Joko Widodo, in a call final week: “China takes seriously Indonesia’s concerns and needs in vaccine cooperation.”
Mr. Xi hailed the two countries’ cooperation on developing a vaccine as “a new bright spot” in relations, according to a commentary from China’s Foreign Ministry. “Together, China and Indonesia will continue to stand in solidarity against Covid-19,” he promised.
China’s vaccine pledges, on top of earlier shipments of masks and ventilators around the globe, help it project itself as a responsible player as the US retreats from global leadership. Beijing’s moves could also help it push back against accusations that the ruling Communist Party will have to be held responsible for its initial missteps when the coronavirus first emerged in China in December.
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The ability to develop and deliver vaccines to poorer countries would also be a powerful sign of China’s rise as a scientific leader in a new post-pandemic global order.
“People are very willing to take a Chinese vaccine,” said Ghazala Parveen, a senior official at the National Institute of Health in Pakistan, where two Chinese vaccine makers are conducting trials. “Actually, we are being asked by people to have the vaccine able as soon as imaginable.”
By some measures, China is leading the global race for a Covid-19 vaccine. It has four candidates in the final phase of clinical trials, more than any other country.
The USA has three vaccine candidates in late-stage trials, with Pfizer saying it could apply for emergency approval as early as October and Moderna saying it hopes to have a vaccine by the end of the year. AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company that received U.S. government underwriting to develop its vaccine, paused its late-stage global trials this week as a result of a serious suspected adverse reaction in a participant.
China has approved a minimum of two experimental vaccines under an emergency use program that started in July with soldiers and employees of state-owned companies and has quietly expanded to include health care and aviation workers. Its vaccine makers have built factories that can produce hundreds of thousands of doses.