A total of 156 Economies have joined the COVID-19 vaccine attribution platform COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility led by the World Health Organization (WHO), with China, which had pledged support for the mechanism, not on the initial list released.
Chinese analysts said the absence is a cautious move, as China is probably still negotiating a thorough plan to ensure a balanced vaccine supply for Chinese citizens and China’s neighbours that were given priority by China when Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines are available.
COVAX is a mechanism created by the Vaccine Allian (Gavi), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for every country in the world.
A WHO news release on Monday said 156 economies – including 64 higher income economies, such as those from the European Commission plus Norway and Iceland, as well as 92 lower income economies – representing roughly 64 percent of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility, with more to follow.
Thirty-eight other economies are expected to sign in the coming days, WHO said.
China is not on the list, but had pledged support for the mechanism.
Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Global Times on Tuesday the absence from the initial list is possibly out of caution.
China has already promised to prioritize some partners and neighbors on other platforms like the Belt & Road Initiative, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China probably wants to make a thorough plan to make sure that it is able to guarantee supply on all these platforms, not to mention for its residents, before joining the COVAX, Zeng said.
Zeng said he thinks China would eventually join. “It is only a matter of time.” WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said at a Tuesday press conference that WHO had very constructive conversations with China, which are ongoing. She noted that WHO is closely following China’s vaccine development, and some of China’s vaccine candidates have proven effective in clinical trials.
Seth Berkley, chief executive of the Gavi vaccines alliance, also said at the same press conference that they would continue to have discussion with China.
China supports COVAX and has been in communication with the WHO and other sponsors of the plan. China will remain in consultations with those organizations, Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said at a routine press conference on Friday.
China noted the expectations placed by some countries on it with regard to vaccine R&D, manufacturing and distribution. Our cooperation with some countries has already begun. China always honors its commitments. We will continue conducting international cooperation in vaccine R&D, manufacturing and distribution, Wang noted.
CEPI is supporting nine vaccine candidates, including two from China, and evaluating them for inclusion in the COVAX Facility.