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China joins COVAX alliance for global distribution of its COVID-19 vaccines

China has officially joined the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX alliance to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the globe, ending speculation that it wants to supply them on its own to developing countries for its diplomatic agenda.

According to the WHO, countries should join the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX Facility) by September 18 but not later than October 9 with upfront payments.

“On October 8, China and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, signed an agreement, officially joining COVAX,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement on Friday.

“This is an important step China has taken to uphold the concept of a shared community of health for all and to honour its commitment to turn COVID-19 vaccines into a global public good,” she said, apparently refuting reports that China plans to distribute the vaccines to developing countries on its own ahead of developed countries.

WHO announced in August that “172 economies are now engaged in discussions to potentially participate in COVAX, a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, once they are licensed and approved”.

China has already promised access and loans for potential vaccines to several lower and middle-income nations – a move the Chinese leadership may see as a better bet for its diplomatic agenda than joining the WHO-backed scheme, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on September 23.

Elaborating on China’s decision to join the global alliance, Hua said in her statement, “currently, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a severe threat to the safety and health of people in all countries”.

“China continues to focus on ensuring that developing countries have equal access to appropriate, safe and effective vaccines. To that end, we have solemnly pledged to make vaccines developed and deployed by China a global public good, which will be provided to developing countries as a priority,” she said.

“Therefore, China has maintained close communication with COVAX with a positive attitude towards joining it. Even when China is leading the world with several vaccines in advanced stages of R&D and with ample production capacity, it still decided to join COVAX,” she said.

“We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX. China will also strengthen vaccine cooperation with relevant countries through the COVAX network,” she said.

“China will continue to work together with COVAX partners and contribute its share to the global fight against the pandemic to safeguard all human beings’ safety and health,” she said.