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WHO's approval of Chinese vaccines would expand scope for their use: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2021-04-28 20:20

People are vaccinated at medical centers in Beijing's Xicheng district, on Jan 3, 2021. [Photo by Fang Fei/For chinadaily.com.cn]

So far only Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have obtained approval from the World Health Organization for emergency use, an indication to national regulators that the vaccines are deemed to be safe and effective, and a seal of approval for the vaccines to be included in COVAX, a global program to provide vaccines to the developing and least-developed countries.

However, the United States' restrictions on exports of vaccines and raw materials for vaccine production, citing vaccination of its own people as its first priority, and the world's largest producer India's recent suspension of its vaccine exports, due to its own grave pandemic situation, have made these vaccines a rare commodity worth hoarding.

Even as the vaccination ratio in some rich countries nears or has surpassed the level required for herd immunity, they still refuse to divert more vaccines to help poorer countries. Although 1 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide, only 1.6 percent of them have gone to African countries.

Given this, news that the WHO's reviews of three more vaccines are near completion is being widely welcomed as a positive development.

According to WHO Assistant Director-General Mariangela Batista Galvao Simao, the global health body's reviews of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine and the Moderna vaccine are due to be completed by the end of this week, and its review of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine by the end of next week.

If the WHO grants approval for the emergency use of the vaccines, particularly the two Chinese ones, it will be a big boost for COVAX and give the green light to some developed countries that are anxiously awaiting its endorsement, as required by their domestic laws, so they can import the Chinese vaccines.

The WHO's approval should be a formality as the Chinese vaccines' safety and efficacy have been tested and proved by multiple parties. More than 200 million doses of Chinese vaccines have been administered at home, and 100 million in foreign countries.

While the COVAX program is being paralyzed by the shortage of vaccines, China has been doing all it can to provide vaccines for the needy population in the Global South. It has already donated vaccines to more than 80 countries and three international organizations, and exported vaccines to more than 40 countries.

The country is expected to produce over 3 billion doses of vaccines this year, and its annual production capacity can reach nearly 5 billion doses. That means, if the WHO gives Chinese vaccines emergency use approval, not only its COVAX program can be revived, but also the global vaccine shortage can be addressed.

Only those not willing to see an end to the Western countries' vaccine monopoly will begrudge the WHO approving the Chinese vaccines.

In the face of a common enemy, it is ridiculous to politicize the weapons that can be used to fight it.

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