China to provide 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to WHO's Covax scheme

The Covax scheme seeks to secure fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for poor countries. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China plans to provide 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to global vaccine sharing scheme Covax, as three Chinese companies applied to join the initiative for approval, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday (Feb 3).

The Covax scheme, backed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Gavi vaccine alliance, is due to start rolling out vaccines to low- and middle-income nations this month, with two billion of three billion doses expected to be delivered this year.

China's foreign ministry said in January that Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics have applied to join the scheme.

Mr Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, announced the supply plan at a regular media briefing on Wednesday, without going into details.

The three companies were not immediately available for comment.

The WHO, which is reviewing the applications, could make decisions on vaccines made by Sinopharm and Sinovac in March at the earliest, according to a Covax internal document seen by Reuters.

Vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac are already being rolled out in several countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

CanSino's vaccine is approved for use in China's military.

None of the three companies have released detailed efficacy data of their vaccines to the public yet, but limited early access to rival shots developed by Western drugmakers have prompted many developing countries to sign up for Chinese vaccines.

The Covax scheme seeks to secure fair and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for poor countries.

Covax announced in December that it has agreements in place to access nearly two billion doses of several promising vaccine candidates, and laid the groundwork for further doses to be secured through contributions from donors.

These agreements mean that all Covax's 190 participating and eligible economies will be able to access doses to protect vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021.

At least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses will be made available to 92 economies eligible under the scheme, targeting up to 20 per cent population coverage by the end of the year.

The deals that Covax has signed included those with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, the Serum Institute of India, and the Sanofi-GSK vaccine candidate, according to the WHO website.

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