Multilateralism key to COVID-19 vaccine
Fair distribution accelerates global economic recovery: expert
Published: Dec 18, 2020 09:33 PM

A vaccine factory in China Photo: AFP

As more inspiring clinical trial results of COVID-19 vaccines have been released recently, the world has high hopes for the advent of the key product, and achieving fair access to vaccines on a global scale is also imminent.

Industry experts and scholars said Friday that in the face of the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, COVAX - a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines - has highlighted the value and significance of multilateral cooperation and innovation. And China should stick to the multilateral vaccine path instead of a nationalist one.

Compared to the distribution method - paying a higher price and getting more - the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the world not only saves more lives, but also brings huge economic benefits to countries, and accelerates the process of global economic recovery, Du Heng, senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told an online seminar on Friday.

To solve the distribution problem, the foundation has actively supported the COVAX to guarantee the accessibility of vaccines in low and middle-income countries by making grants to Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and cooperating with the Gavi and Serum Institute of India.

A total of 187 economies have joined the COVAX mechanism. China officially joined COVAX on October 8. This measure not only helps achieve the fair distribution of global vaccines and ensure equitable access to vaccines in developing countries, but also marked an important milestone for China to fulfill its commitment to promote vaccines as a global public product.

Zha Daojiong, a professor of international political economy in the School of International Studies and Institute of South-South Cooperation and Development at Peking University, said during the seminar that China should stick to the path of multilateralism instead of nationalism for vaccine.

Joining the COVAX mechanism is tantamount to entering multilateral supply and service chains in which, as a vaccine provider, collective negotiations can reduce manpower and material resources as well as the chance of "being held hostage by geopolitics.

"As a potential buyer of vaccines, we can keep on track of the global supply situation and meet with possible challenges when domestic supplies fall short," noted Zha.

China has stated on many occasions that it will make its COVID-19 vaccines a global public good when available, and promised to give priority to some countries once a vaccine is developed and put into use.

Zha told the Global Times that this might be realized via inter-government agreements.