Actively carrying out COVID-19 vaccine aid
Making new contributions to a global community of health for all
-- CIDCA Spokesperson Tian Lin answers questions from reporters at the press conference
The COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the globe. Vaccination is key to keeping it under control. With Chinese vaccines getting conditional market approval, the Chinese government has started to carry out vaccinations domestically, while also providing vaccine aid to some developing countries.
Why is China providing vaccine aid to other developing countries? What progress has been made? And how is China carrying out the work? Tian Lin, spokesperson for the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) took questions from reporters at a press conference on March 19.
Honoring the commitment of a major country: COVID-19 vaccine aid is necessary for building a global community of health for all.
Q: China's COVID-19 vaccine aid has been attracting attention both at home and abroad. Please tell us about the background. Why is the Chinese government providing such aid?
A: Currently, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging around the world. In the face of the worst pandemic in a century, no single country can stay immune. As the World Health Organization (WHO) put it, "no one is safe until everyone is". Thus, solidarity and cooperation is the most powerful weapon against the virus.
The virus knows no borders, but this is a world of love. Over the past year, China has been standing together with the rest of the world in working to overcome difficulties. China will never forget that dozens of countries and international organizations offered a helping hand last year to provide urgently needed anti-pandemic supplies during the most difficult period of China's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, we have also provided assistance and support to more than 150 countries and international organizations - while doing our own epidemic prevention and control work - including donating medical supplies, dispatching medical expert teams, accelerating the construction of public health infrastructure in the countries concerned, supporting multilateral mechanisms and institutions in response to the pandemic, and helping countries in difficulty to cope with debt challenges.
This is the largest emergency humanitarian assistance mission since the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It is a great symbol of China's efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind, and has been highly applauded by the international community, especially developing countries.
The vaccine is the nemesis of the pandemic and virus. It is the ultimate power in terms of pandemic prevention and control. Speaking at the opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly in May last year, President Xi pledged that Chinese COVID-19 vaccines, when available after development, will be made a global public good. This will be China's contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries. With the Chinese vaccines getting conditional market approval, the Chinese government is honoring President Xi's solemn commitment to prioritizing the provision of vaccines to developing countries. Vaccine aid is an important part of this effort.
Providing vaccine aid within our capacity stems from the Chinese idea of the Unity of the World and the simple Chinese mentality of returning a favor with a favor. It demonstrates our internationalism, as well as the sense of responsibility as a major country. It is an essential requirement for us in following the principle of pursuing the greater good and shared interests and in building a global community of health for all. Our foreign aid is not only for the benefit of global public health and for the fair distribution of global vaccines, but is also for the life, safety and health of our people. By providing vaccine aid, we will continue to work with all parties to make new contributions to global solidarity and cooperation in overcoming the pandemic.
We are not saviors, but a friend in need. Vaccine aid is only about respecting life and promoting equity.
Q: We noticed some Western public opinion claiming that China has a political purpose in carrying out COVID-19 vaccine aid and is attempting to win a geopolitical competition. What is your response to that?
A: China's anti-pandemic supplies and vaccine aid are totally open and honest. Our initial intention is, first of all, to contribute to the global fight against the pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in epidemic responses in many developing countries, especially those with poor public health systems. Only by helping them enhance their response capabilities can we win a final victory over the virus as a whole. Our goal is to help other developing countries to save as many innocent lives as possible, without any geopolitical purpose or political conditions. On the issue of vaccine aid, China is not a savior, but we are willing to be a friend in need and a sincere partner to help our friends in times of difficulty.
Secondly, we need to make efforts to promote the equitable distribution of vaccines globally. Since the second half of last year, the international community has become increasingly concerned about the global vaccine "distribution deficit", as vaccine research and development continues to advance and vaccines gradually come into use in different countries. High-income countries have obtained massive vaccine supplies rapidly, while poor countries remain empty-handed. This severely imbalanced situation has aroused deep concerns in the international community, especially in developing countries. As the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the world is on the brink of a "catastrophic moral failure".
At the 15th G20 Leaders' Summit last November, President Xi said China stood ready to step up cooperation with other countries, and work to make vaccines a global public good accessible and affordable to people around the world. China's vaccine aid brings hope to other developing countries in getting a vaccine in good time. It also adds confidence and strength to the global fight against the pandemic. To many countries, the China-donated vaccine is the first batch of vaccines they have obtained. Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said that the vaccines from China brought "rain of hope" to the burning battlefield of COVID-19. Zimbabwean President Mnangagwa described the Chinese vaccine as "a light at the end of the tunnel". The Philippines' President Rodrigo Dutere said that receiving the vaccines from China is a key step in the Philippines' fight against the pandemic. Arce Catacora, president of Bolivia, expressed sincere gratitude to the Chinese government and people for the helping hand they have offered to his country in its time of need.
At this crucial moment, when the whole world is racing against the virus and the death it causes, any voice or act to distract from our joint efforts to fight against the virus has a disregard for life and is a desecration of justice. The whole world should be highly alert to - and resolutely oppose - all kinds of “political viruses”. We hope that the international community will embrace the concept of "win-win" and discard zero-sum thinking and political bias; work pragmatically towards global solidarity in fighting the pandemic; take more practical steps that are conducive to globally equitable access to vaccines; resolutely oppose acts of profiting at others' expense, hoarding and monopolizing; and firmly stand against "vaccine nationalism".
Make every second count: China is providing vaccine aid to 80 countries and three international organizations.
Q: What is China's current progress in providing COVID-19 vaccine aid? What are the main features of this aid?
A: The COVID-19 vaccine aid is the first big-scale vaccine aid operation since the founding of the PRC. It is an important action by the Chinese government to implement President Xi's commitment to making COVID-19 vaccines a global public good. If last year's foreign aid of anti-pandemic supplies was the first half of our humanitarian operations, we are now in the second half. The main features are as follows.
First, we are making a quick response. Obtaining the vaccine as soon as possible is an urgent requirement for developing countries in combating the pandemic. Feeling their pain, and being anxious about what other developing countries are anxious about, the Chinese government initiated its foreign aid operations immediately after the vaccine obtained conditional market approval. Through the inter-ministerial coordination mechanism, the China International Development Cooperation Agency, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Health Commission, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Finance, the General Administration of Customs, the National Medical Products Administration, the Civil Aviation Administration of China and enterprises responsible for implementation, is working against time to carry out related work. Currently, we are providing or will provide vaccine aid to 80 countries and three international organizations, and for some countries that really have difficulties, we also provide syringes to facilitate their use of the vaccines. The aid is being delivered in a timely and orderly manner.
Second, it is a tough mission. Compared with the aid of medical supplies like masks and protective suits last year, vaccine aid requires more complicated and stricter conditions. For instance, vaccination requires the approval for emergency use from relevant national drug regulatory authorities, and also the implementation of international and domestic cold chain transport conditions. Together with other departments, the CIDCA has optimized workflows and improved working efficiency by combining the successful experiences of last year's anti-pandemic supplies aid with the characteristics of vaccine aid. Through our embassies and consulates abroad, we are carrying out rounds of talks with dozens of countries and international organizations, to make sure everything is dealt with properly.
Third, the aid's scope is wide. The scope of vaccine aid covers 26 Asian countries, 34 African countries, four countries in Europe, 10 in America, and six in Oceania. China is also providing vaccine aid to the African Union, the Arab League and UN peacekeepers. The following factors are our main considerations when we formulate an aid plan: first, the benefits of equitable and timely access to vaccines for developing countries; second, the severity of the epidemic and the specific vaccine aid needs of the countries concerned; and third, the capacity of the Chinese government to provide vaccines.
Fourth, the quality of the vaccine is excellent. The vaccine aid operations have fully demonstrated the trust in the safety and effectiveness of the Chinese vaccines shown by the international community, especially other developing countries. To date, over 60 countries have approved market access or issued emergency use permits for Chinese vaccines. Many dignitaries have taken the lead in receiving Chinese vaccines, showing their confidence in us through a practical action. Meanwhile, we have also taken the strictest quality control measures to make sure the vaccines are of high quality and to make our contributions to the fight against the virus in the countries concerned.
Working within our capacity: securing domestic vaccine needs before going abroad
Q: Right now, domestic vaccination work is being carried out on a massive scale. Will the vaccine aid affect the vaccination progress domestically?
A: The vaccine aid will not hinder the progress of domestic vaccination. We have always followed the principle of working within our capacity in our foreign aid work, and this includes the vaccine aid. First, the amount of vaccines provided to other countries is limited. It's mainly for high-risk populations in countries with genuine need, with the aim of helping them to solve their immediate issues. Second, the prerequisite of our foreign aid of vaccines is to guarantee the needs of domestic epidemic prevention and control. The CIDCA, together with related departments, will carefully analyze the domestic epidemic situation and vaccination needs, take into account various factors such as domestic vaccine reserves and production capacity, and strike a balance between domestic and foreign needs. Third, with multiple vaccines obtaining conditional market approval, our production capacity is being enhanced steadily to meet domestic vaccination needs.
We also need to note that since the beginning of this year, many parts of our country have reported locally transmitted sporadic cases and clusters of cases. China's current epidemic prevention and control situation is still complex and serious. One of the serious challenges in the fight against the pandemic is the increasing risk of imported cases. Our foreign aid will help with the global efforts against the pandemic and lower the risk of imported cases, which will consolidate the hard-earned achievements of our work in the previous phase.
The worldwide battle against the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing. As long as it goes on, China's humanitarian operations against the pandemic will continue until we, together with the international community, have achieved a final victory over the pandemic and have safeguarded the common health of all.