CHINA / DIPLOMACY
China provides vaccine aid to 53 developing countries, exports to 22
Published: Feb 08, 2021 04:41 PM

Chinese COVID-19 vaccines provided around the world Infographic: GT





China is providing vaccine aid to 53 developing countries and exporting vaccines to 22 countries, including those in Africa which lags behind in inoculation.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on Monday that a shipment of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines will leave for Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday.

The Global Times learned from Chinese vaccine producer Sinovac on Monday that the company had delivered more than 10 million doses to countries in Asia, the Mediterranean, Latin America and Africa.

China has also decided to provide Egypt and the Arab League with batches of COVID-19 vaccines, and is willing to facilitate Egypt's procurement of vaccines produced by Chinese companies, said Chinese Ambassador to Egypt Liao Liqiang on Sunday at an online press conference.

The move reflects the profound friendship between the heads of state of China and Egypt and the sincere feelings of the Chinese people toward the Egyptian people, and will help Egypt overcome the pandemic at an early date, the Chinese envoy said.

The moves came amid reports of South African health officials' announcement on Sunday of pausing the country's rollout of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine after a study showed it offered reduced protection against the COVID-19 variant first identified there.

"I have been expecting a low efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine on the variant in South Africa due to previous results of Pfizer and Moderna on the variant, but have not thought it could be so low, nearly useless," Zhuang Shilihe, a Guangzhou-based vaccine expert, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Nineteen of the 748 people in AstraZeneca's clinical trials in South Africa were infected with the new variant, compared to 20 out of 714 people in the group who were given a placebo, according to media reports.

Other world-leading vaccines producers, Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, have also said that studies showed their COVID-19 vaccines were less effective in South Africa than in the US.

Considering the low efficacy, Zhuang called for global vaccine makers to adjust their vaccines to the new variant in South Africa immediately before it spreads more widely in the world. 

"mRNA vaccines may require 2-3 weeks to adjust coding. Inactivated vaccines may take longer than two months as vaccines makers have to cultivate new virus of the new variants, but as far as I know Chinese vaccine makers are able to adjust in a shorter period," Zhuang said. 

The variant in South Africa accounts for about 90 percent of infections in that country and is powering record case numbers in the sub-region. It has been found in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Comoros, Zambia and in 24 non-African nations. 

Gao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a previous conference that China's inactivated and recombinant protein vaccines are still effective on the variant in South Africa as serum antibody tests showed that efficacy against the variant only decreased by 1.6 times. 

The data is not bad compared to the performance of AstraZeneca's vaccine, but as it is only the result of a neutralization test of serum antibody, it still requires clinical trials to determine the accurate efficacy of Chinese vaccines on the new variant, Zhuang said.

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