Oct 09, 2020 05:49 PM

China Joins Global Covid-19 Vaccine Scheme Shunned by U.S.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying holds a regular press conference on Sept. 2. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying holds a regular press conference on Sept. 2. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

China has joined an $18 billion global program to develop, produce and distribute Covid-19 vaccines once they become available, a move that may bolster the country’s role in health diplomacy as others fast-track efforts to combat the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Friday that Beijing had formally signed up to the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, an international initiative co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), which aims to provide equitable access to safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.

“This is an important measure in China’s adherence to the principle of a shared community of human health and the fulfillment of our own promise to promote a vaccine as a global public good,” Hua said, according to a statement (link in Chinese) on the ministry’s website.

The decision comes after the U.S. said last month that it would not join Covax, citing its ties to organizations close to China and the WHO, which the Trump administration has accused of being excessively influenced by Beijing.

Coordinated by the WHO, global vaccine alliance Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a global partnership to develop vaccines against epidemics, Covax aims to ensure that people across the world can access Covid-19 inoculations once they become available, no matter how wealthy they are.

More than 160 economies worldwide, including 92 low- and middle-income ones, have joined the initiative so far, according to a Thursday Gavi press statement.

The scheme is part of a three-pronged global pandemic response called the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, which was set up in April by the WHO, the European Commission — the EU’s executive branch — and the French government.

Countries are racing to develop vaccines for Covid-19, which has killed more than 1 million people so far this year, according to a tally by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Around a dozen vaccine candidates, including at least five partly or wholly developed by Chinese organizations, are currently undergoing phase 3 clinical trials, which test their safety and efficacy on thousands of people before they are submitted for approval.

According to the foreign ministry’s statement, Hua reiterated that China will view any domestically produced Covid-19 vaccines as a “global public good” that will be distributed “with priority given to developing countries.”

Contact reporter Matthew Walsh ( and editor Joshua Dummer (

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