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China lauded for helping developing nations in pandemic fight

In this file photo taken on Aug 1, 2021,
a youth receives the Sinovac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at a clinic in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (PRING SAMRANG / AFP)

As China celebrates the 50th anniversary of the restoration of its lawful seat at the United Nations, experts in Asia have recognized China's crucial role in helping developing countries fight the pandemic.

"Without China, we could not imagine how the developing countries can get access to vaccines," said Chheang Vannarith, president of the Phnom Penh-based Asian Vision Institute.

Since developed countries were able to get most of the vaccines as they could sign early contracts with private vaccine producers, Chheang told China Daily that China helped fill the distribution gap and promote vaccine equity.  

Despite a severe supply shortage within the country, China still acted first to deliver domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to Thailand in February. As of Oct 20, China has provided 46.65 million doses of vaccines to Thais

For example, despite a severe supply shortage within the country, China still acted first to deliver domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to Thailand in February. As of Oct 20, China has provided 46.65 million doses of vaccines to Thais, according to the Chinese embassy in Bangkok. Bangladesh also received 6.5 million vaccines from China last week, including 1 million doses donated on Oct 19.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping said China aims to provide 2 billion doses to other countries this year. Moreover, on top of a donation of $100 million to the World Health Organization's COVAX facility, China has pledged to donate an additional 100 million doses to developing countries.

"China has been a firm believer of making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good and has done its best to supply vaccines to the international community," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, noting China has provided more than 1.5 billion doses to over 100 countries and international organizations, as of Oct 17.

China's support during the pandemic serves as testimony to its commitment to stand together with developing countries for they, as late Chairman Mao Zedong once said, are the ones that "carried" China into the UN back in 1971.

Chheang from the Asian Vision Institute said the cooperation in vaccine manufacturing between China and regional developing countries is also important, given that COVID-19 is expected to persist for a long time and more shots will be needed to build long-term immunity.

China has been at the forefront of the global COVID-19 vaccine research and development, with two of its vaccines – Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac and Sinopharm’s Vero Cell – approved by the WHO for emergency use. 

ALSO READ: WHO working with Sinopharm, Sinovac ahead of emergency use

Chinese vaccine companies have also carried out joint vaccine production in countries, including UAE, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan, Mexico and Algeria. 

Last December, the UAE became the first country to deliver Sinopharm COVID-19 shots to the general public. The vaccine is now being manufactured in the Middle East country under a joint venture and is distributed across the world with the name Hayat Vax. 

“The vaccine cooperation between China and UAE to help protect people against COVID-19 was visionary and has saved many lives, especially in the developing world,” said Ben Hanson, consultant physician and chief executive officer of the Dubai consultancy Rivers International Management Services.

“I was one of the fortunate front-line essential workers to gratefully be vaccinated over a year ago with Sinopharm and it probably saved my life, like it did for so many others,” Hanson told China Daily. 

Surasit Thanadtang, director of the Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center at the National Research Council of Thailand, said it is important that China has provided timely information to other developing countries because “the sooner is the better”.

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Ten days after the world’s first genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was published by Chinese scientists on January 12 2020, China launched 2019 Novel Coronavirus Resource database, with a global sharing and analysis system for coronavirus-related data released in the following month. In about one month, the former provided data services to over 760,000 visitors from 152 countries and regions, according to Xinhua News Agency. 

Thinking China’s sharing transparent and responsible, Surasit said China’s response model is widely appreciated and regarded as guidelines by many countries. 

Noting China’s response mechanisms are widely appreciated and even regarded as guidelines by many states, Surasit said China’s sharing, including experience in pandemic control and treatment, is transparent and responsible. 

On the other side, China also received timely support from the international community at the early stage of the pandemic, Chheang said, and the mutual support demonstrated amid COVID-19 has promoted global solidarity against the disease.

For example, when China was at a critical stage in managing its domestic COVID-19 outbreak, many developing countries, including Cambodia, provided generous amounts of anti-pandemic supplies. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was also the first head of a foreign government to visit China after the outbreak.

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In return, as of Oct 14, China has provided 34.8 million COVID-19 vaccines doses to Cambodia, including 5.8 million donated by the Chinese government and 500,000 donated by Sinovac, according to the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh. With this support, Cambodia has vaccinated over 85 percent of its 16 million population, with Phnom Penh becoming the capital with one of the highest vaccination rates globally.

Jan Yumul in Hong Kong contributed to the story.