EU should include Chinese inoculations in ‘vaccine passports’
Published: Mar 15, 2021 08:45 PM
Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

Illustration: Xia Qing/GT

EU is reportedly planning to roll out a "vaccine passport" to facilitate personnel exchanges within the bloc, with a proposal stating that only European Medicines Agency (EMA)-approved vaccines will be valid for travel in EU.

The EMA has approved four vaccines from UK and US developers. However, with Chinese vaccines, which have been donated to nearly 70 and exported to 43 countries, currently not included in the list, the efficiency of the forthcoming so-called "vaccine passport" of EU may be limited.

The EU has been weighing the measure of rolling out such a "green pass" travel certificate for quite a while, with higher support from countries whose economies relying on tourism revenues, such as Greece, Spain and Portugal, but also reservations from northern EU members such as Germany, according to an Euronews report.

As the world embarks on a bumpy recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, an effective vaccine passport is one of the options for countries and regions to resume exchanges which have been badly obstructed by the lockdowns. Putting aside business personnel exchanges between EU and China as well as countries which have adopted Chinese vaccines, the tourism sector of most European countries would suffer a huge loss if the vaccine passport cannot involve the widely-adopted Chinese vaccines, since Chinese travelers have long been a major source for outbound tourism.

Ever since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple problems in the Western world have been exposed. Scrambling medical supplies, resisting quarantine rules to endless wrangling on wearing masks are among the problems.

The distribution of vaccines is no exception, from hoarding supply to unequal distribution. A growing number of European countries have turned to China for vaccine supplies, with Hungary became the first EU member adopting Chinese-made vaccines. And Serbia has received 2 million doses of Chinese vaccines so far.

China is one of the earliest countries rolling out vaccines, pledging to offer its products as global public goods. The country has announced to offer an initial 10 million doses to COVAX, mainly for the urgent needs of many developing countries. Growing number of countries from South America, Africa and Asia are seeking supplies from China. Latest information showed that Malaysia has scheduled to initiate vaccination on Thursday with vaccines developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech.

Meanwhile, the EU has not approved Chinese vaccines, which reveals its deep-rooted discrimination. Instead of promoting vaccination program more efficiently, it seemly cannot quit politicizing vaccine-related topics, even though it would inevitably prolong recovery of their battered economies.

With relatively insufficient pandemic prevention measures and inefficient vaccine distribution system, the EU may face a bumpier path toward economic recovery comparing to other major economies. 

China, on the other hand, has stepped up efforts to facilitate vaccination and economic recovery of many developing countries. It has started to provide COVID-19 vaccines to 35 African countries and the African Union Commission. As a major driving force for the global recovery, China will enhance cooperation with others to jointly combat the global health crisis. Vaccine nationalism or vaccine divide should be rejected by every nation of the world so as to help all human beings on our globe.

The article was compiled based on an interview with Wang Yiwei, Jean Monnet Chair Professor and Director of European Studies at Remin University of China.