China sold and donated some 80 million doses to 60 countries. Its lead was facilitated by export controls by the European Union and India. Chinese vaccines have not yet been licenced by the World Health Organisation. Beijing will have trouble producing enough vaccines for itself and others. As a geopolitical tool, vaccines might flop.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – China ranks first in COVID-19 vaccine exports, with some 80 million doses sent to 60 countries, various sources report. The European Union and India follow with 77 and 64 million respectively.
China's lead is due to other governments imposing export controls or reducing exports to focus on domestic vaccination.
Millions of Chinese vaccines have been delivered under trade agreements with less than 100,000 doses donated to poor countries. Before the pandemic, China did not export vaccines in great quantities, covering only 1 per cent of the global market.
As reported by AsiaNews, by early March the Chinese had distributed almost eight million doses to Latin America. Chinese companies also delivered bulk ingredients for some 90 million doses to be turned into vaccines in Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil.
Chinese vaccines (Sinopharm, Sinovac Biotech and CanSino Biologics) however have not yet been licenced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and cannot be included in COVAX, the global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for developing countries.
As a result of export controls by India and the EU, COVAX is currently lagging behind in distributing anti-COVID vaccines, whilst the World Health Organisation said it needs more data to licence Chinese vaccines
While UN health agency will have completed its revie by the end of April, the Chinese are moving forward with exports authorised by foreign governments. Nonetheless, some analysts note that China will have problems producing enough vaccines for domestic use if it fulfils foreign commitments.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that by the end of June 40 per cent of the Chinese population (about 560 million people) will be vaccinated. So far China’s own vaccination campaign has been slow, at least compared to countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.
As of yesterday, more than 155.15 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines had been administered across China, the National Health Commission said today; that is 11 doses out of 100 residents, far lower than in the United Kingdom (56 doses per 100 the United States) and the United States (52), but better than in India (almost 7).
Some countries that have signed deals with China have complained about non-deliveries. Reuters and other media have reported that Turkey was supposed to receive 50 million doses by the end of February, but only 16 million reached their destination by March.
Overall, according to the South China Morning Post, only six countries have received more than three million doses of Chinese vaccines.
Critics note that China is using vaccines as a tool to gain geopolitical influence to the detriment of the United States and its allies.
Taiwan recently warned that China is offering the vaccine to Paraguay in exchange for diplomatic recognition. The South American nation has formal relations with Taipei, but not with Beijing, which considers the island a “rebel” province.
Many point out that such a policy might flop, as the world offer will be more than sufficient once the United States, the European Union and India have vaccinated a large part of their own populations.