China may join WHO global vaccine programme that Trump shuns

The Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility is designed to ensure countries have equal opportunity to access appropriate, safe and effective vaccines. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China hinted on Wednesday (Sept 2) it may participate in the same World Health Organisation-led global vaccine programme that US President Donald Trump has said America wants no part of.

The Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, is designed to ensure all countries have equal opportunity to access appropriate, safe and effective vaccines, China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing on Wednesday in Beijing.

"China's purpose is highly consistent with Covax's aim," she said.

In May, President Xi Jinping pledged that a China-developed coronavirus vaccine would be shared with the world. Still, Beijing has yet to confirm that it will become a member. At another briefing last month, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said China was "studying" taking part in Covax.

Many health experts say a multilateral approach to vaccine development and deployment makes most sense if the world wants to avoid conflicts and inefficiencies that would inevitably arise if countries do so alone. Poorer countries in particular could stand to lose if there's no central coordination and funding for vaccine development.


Ms Hua indicated that China was in close communication - including taking part in a video conference on Tuesday - with the entities behind the initiative, which in addition to the WHO also include the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

During the call, the parties exchanged ideas on relevant issues and said they will work together to promote research and development, production and distribution of vaccines, Ms Hua said.

"Going forward, we will continue close communication with the initiators of Covax," she said.

Though short of a full commitment, Beijing's stance is more encouraging than Washington's, which has outright refused to participate.

"The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organisations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organisation and China," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

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