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Boost for Africa's vaccine drive as more doses arrive from China

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-03-31 21:20

Vaccines are currently the most powerful weapon in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, lack of vaccine equity has made Africa lag behind in this fight. Luckily for the continent, China attaches great importance to the equitable distribution of vaccines, especially the accessibility and affordability in developing countries.

As a result, China has been at the forefront in availing vaccinations through donations and bilateral agreements with many African countries, thereby boosting the vaccination drive across the continent. As recently as Tuesday, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe received additional doses of China-donated COVID-19 vaccines, which will go a long way in protecting their populations.

In Ethiopia, a batch of 300,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Sinopharm was received at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport by Lia Tadesse, Ethiopia's health minister, Zhao Zhiyuan, Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia, and Birtukan Ayano, state minister in Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Tadesse commended the latest Chinese COVID-19 donation as a testament to the solid bilateral ties between the two countries and recalled that China had also donated COVID-19 medical equipment.

"Since the onset of the pandemic in the past one year, the collaboration and partnership between these two countries have really been immense, and the support of both the government of China, as well as organizations, private foundations and other organizations in China, have been extending their support in the fight against the pandemic to Ethiopia," Tadesse said.

"Several donations of supplies, like personal protective equipment, test kits, and medical equipment, have been delivered. In addition, technical support and missions have been here to share experiences in how best to combat this challenging pandemic," she added.

While stressing the need to build on vaccine equity, especially for developing countries, Zhao said that China is directly donating vaccines to over 80 developing countries in urgent need. This is in addition to providing support under the COVAX global vaccine-sharing scheme.

"China was the first country to provide Ethiopia with vaccine aid through the bilateral inter-governmental channel, which speaks volumes of the profound traditional friendship between the two countries," Zhao said.

"China has worked in real earnest to pursue the common good of humankind. The vaccine is a powerful weapon against the virus and brings hope for saving lives. It should serve the entire world and benefit all humanity," he added.

In Zimbabwe, the third shipment of more than 1 million Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines procured by the government from China arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport.

Speaking after receiving the vaccines, John Mangwiro, Zimbabwe's deputy minister for Health and Child Care, said the government was geared to increase the pace at which the vaccination exercise was going.

"We are moving forward and we will up the speed of the vaccination program. The Ministry of Finance is ready to purchase more vaccines to fight this COVID-19 pandemic. Government would increase vaccination points to cater to all citizens and decongest the available points," Mangwiro said.

Zimbabwe has so far authorized the use of four COVID-19 vaccines--- China's Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines, Russia's Sputnik V and Covaxin from India.

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