Chinese abroad anticipate China’s vaccine program, difficulties remain
Published: Mar 08, 2021 08:43 PM
vaccine Photo:VCG

vaccine Photo:VCG

Chinese across the globe have welcomed China's vaccine program, announced by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday, despite difficulties for this undertaking.

Wang told a news conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress in Beijing on Sunday that a "Spring Seedling Action" will ensure nationals receive either domestic or foreign vaccines.

Despite the complex and varying situation, analysts said the move is vital in ensuring the health and wellbeing of the Chinese expat community, many of whom are elites overseeing China's business interests at overseas postings. 

One issue that stands out is how to administer vaccines in pandemic-rampant countries with no ready vaccine solutions that have at the same time yet to register or recognize Chinese vaccines.

"We cannot go back to China… there are no commercial flights... employees who take their overseas terms on the roster have to hold on to their positions, yet from voices back home, we know that we won't be left behind," a representative from the Chinese business community in India told the Global Times on Monday. India has one of the world's highest tallies of COVID-19 infections. 

"Although India has some clinical phase III vaccine candidates and has received licenses to produce Europe-made vaccines, we trust homegrown vaccines more," said the representative on condition of anonymity.

Besides business professionals, a fairly large number of Chinese overseas students are in a similar situation and some of them told the Global Times that they were glad to hear that the "Spring Seedling Action" is about to start.

A Chinese student in the UK told the Global Times on Monday that he estimated up to 30 percent of Chinese students hadn't left the UK to return to China during the pandemic, and they had no chance to get a vaccine in China. 

Two Chinese students told the Global Times that they will definitely take the shots if the embassy could arrange it.

Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert and a former Shanghai disease prevention and control employee, said that with more than 50 million shots administered globally, Chinese vaccines have proved their safety and effectiveness. 

A program such as "Spring Seedling Action" is plausible and can be implemented, with some effort.

"So if there is still any issue preventing the program from taking place, that issue cannot be one of science," Tao said.

More than 50 countries already included Chinese nationals in their vaccination plans, and many Chinese nationals overseas are also getting vaccines in other countries according to the local law, Wang said on Sunday.

Wang said China was also considering setting up vaccination centers offering Chinese shots in other countries and regions.

Wang said that China is providing vaccines to 69 developing countries for emergency use, and exporting vaccines to 43 countries, adding that China is willing to have discussions with other countries on the mutual recognition of vaccinations and how it would work.

For some countries, the recognition of vaccinations is a roadblock and Chinese diplomats are doing their best to push for progress.

The Tanzanian government has openly questioned the vaccine's effectiveness as one of four African countries that have not joined COVAX, a WHO-backed international vaccine distribution program, the Global Times learned.

Given this context, China has not been able to reach an agreement with the Tanzanian side on vaccine cooperation, and it is still working with the Tanzanian government on the matter, which may take some time, a source familiar with the matter told the Global Times on Monday.

Tao said that China's vaccine output could reach 4 billion doses in 2021 and that amount will be enough for a massive inoculation program in China while at the same time supplying overseas countries.

In countries that could administer China-developed vaccines, inactivated vaccines are more likely to be chosen, Tao said.

A Chinese citizen in the US state of California said the county he resides in is taking a phased approach to provide access to those who wish to take COVID-19 vaccines. He told the Global Times that people of all nationalities are promised equal access to vaccines. 

Huang Bin, head of the Chinese department at the Bangkok-based Kasikorn Research Center, told the Global Times that due to the relatively mild COVID-19 situation in Thailand, people were not in a hurry to get inoculated. 

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