From Renmin Ribao (人民网, People’s Daily Online), March 23, 2021, http://en.people.cn/n3/2021/0323/c90000-9831609.html. Complete text:
Countries around the world are acting as one to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and China is also making its own contribution to this cause.
The country has repeatedly pledged that its domestic COVID-19 vaccine development and deployment, when available, will be made a global public good, which will become China’s contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries.
As China began providing vaccines to other countries, some Western critics have labeled China’s efforts as “vaccine diplomacy” aimed at expanding the country’s political influence.
In fact, the root cause of the problems that have been encountered in promoting the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally lies in the widening immunity gap and “vaccine nationalism” cooked up by some developed countries.
Some high-income countries signed contracts with vaccine manufacturers in a bid to ensure they had priority in vaccine provision. However, these countries had ordered more doses than they actually needed, resulting in surplus vaccine supply. In contrast, some low-income countries were placed in a predicament as they had little or no access to vaccines.
The UK and the US are purchasing more vaccines than they need. ONE campaign, an anti-poverty organization, said in a report on Feb. 19 that the UK, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and European Union had received 3 billion doses of vaccines. This equates to almost 1 billion more doses than the 2.06 billion required to give the entire populations of these countries two shots. The report noted that the amount of vaccine doses bought by Canada was five times the country’s population.
As of March 12, some 335 million doses of vaccine had been administered in 144 economies globally, and 76% of those were in 10 countries, said World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. This situation indicates that ensuring vaccine equity continues to be a moral test for the whole world.
Unfair vaccine distribution is also seen among high-income countries. For instance, to guarantee vaccine supply to the US and the UK, pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca Plc. and Pfizer were slow in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, resulting in the vaccine rollout in some EU countries being delayed. Currently, COVID-19 vaccination coverage in the EU is much lower than in the US and the UK.
Only 5.5% of the EU population of 447 million have received a first vaccine dose, according to data released by the WHO on March 3.
In dealing with COVID-19, regarded as a public health emergency of international concern, “vaccine nationalism” benefits no one, but reveals short-sightedness and the zero-sum and narrow-minded mentality of Western politicians.
No one is safe until everyone is safe. All measures taken by developed countries to bring COVID-19 under control, including tight visa and entry restrictions, will end up being in vain if less developed countries fail to curb COVID-19.
A study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation finds that “vaccine nationalism” could cost the wealthiest economies up to $4.5 trillion.
An advocate of the humanitarian spirit, China never attaches any political strings in exporting COVID-19 vaccines or providing vaccine aid.
“The global fight against COVID-19 must not stop until the virus gets eliminated in each and every country. Everyone is obligated to help those in need even when there is only one case of infection left.” These remarks made by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a press conference held during the “two sessions” in early March 2021 demonstrated China’s determination to work with the international community to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the face of the pandemic, which poses a threat to all mankind, selfishness and nationalism will hurt everyone. Countries should reject “vaccine nationalism” and help each other in the community of common destiny for mankind to overcome this challenge and usher in a new future.