Experts advise EU to choose Chinese vaccines as alternative to solve urgent problems
Published: Jan 27, 2021 01:37 AM

A nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the health service center of the Xiameilin community in Futian District, Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, Jan. 24, 2021. Photo: Xinhua

Fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines were highlighted by European leaders' speech during virtual Davos Agenda 2021 summit of global leaders on Tuesday. Chinese observers warned the continent to learn its lesson from betting all hopes on the US and the UK pharmaceuticals for vaccines, and advised them to choose Chinese vaccines as an alternative to solve its urgent problems. 

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen earlier told forum: "Europe invested billions to help develop the world's first COVID-19 vaccines. And now, the companies must deliver. They must honor their obligations."

Echoing her, German Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged a "fair" distribution of coronavirus vaccines, warning that the memories of countries left out of the race for the life-saving jabs would persist.

"Money is one thing, but the other thing in a time of scarcity is the availability of the vaccine. Here, it's about a fair distribution, and not about a question of money," she told an online forum.

Merkel also urged against a vaccine race between richer countries, saying that a multilateral effort was the best way to exit the coronavirus pandemic.

The EU leaders' criticism came after delivery delays of vaccine makers AstraZeneca (AZN) and Pfizer (PFE). According to public reports, problems in the vaccine production process and the shortage of upstream raw materials have led to delays in the delivery of vaccines and disrupted the mass vaccination plans of European countries. 

Pfizer's vaccine, for unknown reasons, doesn't seem to be producing as much as originally expected. The AstraZeneca vaccine is said to have a capacity of 3 billion doses, but the acceptance level is not high enough. And even if it does, the raw materials, production and transportation issues may drag down actual capacity, Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based medical expert on vaccines, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Observers said that the EU is now ants on a hot pan after they realized their vaccination process lags far behind the US, and Israel. 

Statista reported on Monday that in the week ending January 17, there were more than 1.6 million new cases of COVID-19 recorded in Europe.

The EU has long been betting hopes on the US and the UK pharmaceuticals, but now they realize they maybe tricked by those companies. It's time to wake up, warned Chinese experts. 

"Europe is in short supply of COVID-19 vaccines, making cooperation with China entirely possible. China has never refused to provide vaccines to any country. For instance, Hungary has already purchased Chinese vaccines," the vaccine expert said. 

Now two of Chinese vaccines have joined the COVAX plan, where it is possible for Beijing to expand more cooperation with European countries, said Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies, China Institute of International Studies.

Cui noted that under the background where more and more Western pharmaceuticals are likely to commercialize vaccine, Chinese companies are offering cheaper and safer vaccines that could be an alternative, especially for less developed countries. 

It is expected that more European countries will use Chinese vaccines in the future, following examples like Serbia, Hu Qimu, chief researcher at the Sinosteel Economic Research Institute, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"Choosing Chinese vaccines with sufficient production capacity and timely, stable supply can better solve the current problem," Hu said.

China's inactivated vaccine uses a different technical route from mRNA vaccines, allowing it to be made in China and shipped to Europe. Co-production may involve additional sets of cumbersome approval procedures; thus it is more efficient to source from China, according to Hu.