China fulfills ASEAN priority, provides vaccines to Indonesia, Myanmar
Published: Jan 12, 2021 10:18 PM

Workers unload COVID-19 vaccines to be stored at a warehouse in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, Tuesday. Photo: AP

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday started his visit to Indonesia as part of his four-nation tour of Southeast Asia, which comes after Indonesia announced on Monday an emergency approval of a Chinese-developed COVID-19 vaccine in its national inoculation project.

Observers said Wang's visit to Indonesia will further advance detailed plans on vaccine cooperation between the two countries which have been progressing as seen from the three batches of doses offered from China.

On November 27 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening ceremony of the 17th China-ASEAN Expo and China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit that China will actively consider the needs of ASEAN countries, when COVID-19 vaccines are available for use.

Wang's promise of vaccines to Myanmar during his visit to the country on Monday was seen as a powerful commitment - a prioritized vaccine supply to ASEAN members.

The Global Times learned from Chinese vaccine producer Sinovac that it has sent about 15 million doses of semi-finished COVID-19 vaccines to Indonesia on Tuesday, after the first two batches totaling 3 million doses. The semi-finished vaccines will be packaged and tagged by the local partner - Indonesia's state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma - which conducted the Phase III clinical trials of Sinovac's vaccine in Indonesia.

Indonesia's drug regulator on Monday green-lighted emergency use of Sinovac's vaccines, with mass vaccinations of high-risk groups expected to start later this week.

Indonesia has dispatched 1.2 million doses of Sinovac's COVID-19 vaccines to 34 provinces as part of its mass vaccination efforts, with President Joko Widodo set to get his first dose on Wednesday. 

During his visit to Myanmar, Wang on Monday said that China is willing to provide Myanmar with a batch of anti-epidemic materials as well as COVID-19 vaccines. 

Myanmar's ministry of foreign affairs said that it has held frequent talks with Chinese counterparts about acquiring COVID-19 vaccines from the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and Sinovac. 

A source told the Global Times that both companies are on the list to potentially provide doses to Myanmar. 

An agreement was reached by the two countries at the end of 2020 and the first doses are expected to arrive in Myanmar in early 2021 while further details are still being discussed. Approval for emergency authorization of the vaccine candidate is expected to be given in early 2021, local media reported.

Myanmar's ambassador to China Myo Thant Pe singled out China's vaccines for praise in November, saying that "the covalent vaccines developed in China are global public goods, which are very much appreciated." 

"We wish to express our sincere thanks … to the Chinese government for its attitude on vaccine development," the ambassador told the Global Times in November.

Malaysia has been listed as one of the countries to be given priority to receive vaccines from China, for which Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin expressed his appreciation.

Malaysia Pharmaniaga Bhd, Malaysia's largest listed integrated pharmaceutical group, has reached a deal with Sinovac to buy ready-to-fill COVID-19 vaccines and later to manufacture it domestically, according to the company.

Thailand expects to get its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinovac next month, allowing the country in the middle of a resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak to begin inoculating people with the highest risks for infections, Bloomberg reported on January 3.

The Chinese vaccine will be shipped in three batches to Thailand, with the first 200,000 doses arriving in February, 800,000 in March, and another 1 million in April, according to Thailand's Health Ministry.