Caixin
Nov 30, 2020 05:31 PM
OPINION

Editorial: Global Cooperation on Covid-19 Vaccine Will Save Thousands of Lives

We have recently received a succession of good news about the research and development of vaccines for the novel coronavirus. Several international pharmaceutical companies have announced the results of phase 3 clinical trials, with the effectiveness of some vaccines reaching or exceeding 90%.

Five Chinese vaccines are undergoing phase 3 clinical trials in other countries, and some have already been approved for emergency use in China. According to previous statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 190 vaccine candidates are in development worldwide. Humankind stands at the brightening dawn of a victory over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, the virus is still spreading globally and has caused several waves of disruption to the world economy. A vaccine is the only hope for ending the pandemic. Time is of the essence, though we must ensure the safety and effectiveness of all vaccines. Every day sooner that we can use the vaccine means China and the world can save thousands of lives and reduce economic and social losses.

On the issue of epidemic prevention and control, humankind has indeed formed a community with a shared future. However, it is regrettable that, with a few spontaneous and sporadic exceptions, the international community has not collaborated on the research and development of vaccines in a conscious and concerted way.

Looking ahead, countries must adopt a global perspective on vaccine selection, production, and large-scale use, and take into account their effectiveness and availability instead of erecting barriers. The pandemic that has been raging for a year has deeply taught humankind how important it is to seek truth and be pragmatic.

China’s attitude toward international cooperation on the vaccine is very clear. The Chinese government has repeatedly emphasized that it is willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries in the development, production and distribution of vaccines.After the research and development of China’s vaccine is completed and put into use, it will be used as a global public product in order to achieve vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. It therefore stands to reason that China also has the need and the right to share the results of the world’s most effective vaccine research in accordance with international rules.

Simply put, China’s vaccine research, development and use will certainly form a dual circulation model based on domestic applications with the mutual promotion of both the domestic and international.

China’s international cooperation in vaccine research and development can be roughly summarized as “going out” and “bringing in.” As one of the first countries to carry out vaccine research and development, five technical routes, including inactive vaccines, have sought cooperation with foreign entities, have carried out joint scientific research and clinical trials with many international organizations and countries, and affirmed the results locally. Several countries have already negotiated orders.

Additionally, the progress made in international vaccine research and development also contains results from Chinese companies. Strengthening international cooperation is also a rare opportunity for related Chinese companies to broaden their horizons, enhance their strength and shape their global image.

Vaccine research and development in various countries should manage the relationship between competition and cooperation. It is undeniable that there is indeed a competitive side to catching up with others’ research.

However, no matter what kind of vaccine is first put into large-scale use, it is a boon for humankind. There are no legal and policy barriers to the use of foreign vaccines in China, but officials, companies and the public should all adjust their mindsets. The WHO has repeatedly — and for good reason — called for efforts to avoid “vaccine nationalism.”

We hope that the huge research investments of Chinese companies will bear fruit as soon as possible. This simple emotion is completely understandable, but everything should serve the overall situation of epidemic prevention. Given China’s limited vaccine production capacity, more foreign vaccines are likely to be used initially.

China’s disease prevention and control measures are effective, and its economy has been among the first to recover. However, it continues to struggle under tremendous pressure from the global pandemic.

Recently, there have been locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in Shanghai, Tianjin, Manzhouli and other places. China should establish and improve vaccine supply and distribution rules. The intellectual property rights to vaccines belong to the companies that develop them, and the sharing of results must comply with business rules. If Chinese vaccines are to become a global public product, they will need clear domestic policies and effective international cooperation to establish rules.

Admittedly, the real world is not flat. At least in the initial stage, vaccines are likely to be in short supply. The statements made by individual leaders of major powers that vaccines should be given priority use in their own countries have aroused worldwide concern.

This attitude is reasonable from a purely domestic perspective in that it pleases voters, but it is still too narrow-minded. If we proceed in this way, some countries may purchase vaccines that far exceed the size of the population, while some countries may not have enough vaccines or simply cannot afford them. If vaccines are not available in poor countries and regions, how can we ever end global disease prevention and control?

Global cooperation is not an empty proclamation, but an operational platform. In October, China formally joined Covax and clearly supported the participation of Chinese research companies. Covax, which is currently the most influential platform of its kind, was jointly initiated by the WHO; Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance; and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). It aims to accelerate the development and production of Covid-19 vaccines, coordinate their global distribution and ensure that all countries and regions can obtain them equitably.

At present, more than 180 countries and regions around the world have joined Covax, accounting for more than 90% of the global population. However, the United States, which has the world’s strongest vaccine research, development and production capabilities, refused to join on the grounds that it is led by the WHO, which the Trump administration has repeatedly claimed is unduly influenced by China.

People from all walks of life expect U.S. President-Elect Joe Biden to change the American government’s line on international cooperation on vaccines. If China and the U.S. can work together, whether it is information sharing or joint scientific research, it will revitalize global disease prevention and control.

In the arduous battle against Covid-19, we can only save ourselves by saving all humankind. Seventeen years ago, in a joint action coordinated by the WHO, scientists from various countries worked together to tackle the SARS outbreak. Unfortunately, this scene has not been repeated this time around.

Countries have paid a high price for that. Covid-19 will not be the last pandemic humanity faces. Only by remedying the situation, seriously reflecting on the our wrongful suspicions, attacks and division, and returning to the right path of global cooperation, can humankind overcome this virus and face the next unforeseen pandemic.

Contact translator Matthew Walsh (matthewwalsh@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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