China has announced a plan to provide 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to developing nations through the global COVAX initiative.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said China is responding to a request from the World Health Organization as developing countries seek to fill shortages predicted to run through March.
COVAX, coordinated by WHO and others, seeks to ensure low and middle-income countries have enough coronavirus vaccines, as wealthy nations have snapped up many of the millions of upcoming doses.
“We hope countries in international society with the capability will swing into action, support COVAX through practical actions, support the work of the World Health Organization, assist developing countries in obtaining vaccines in a timely manner and contribute to international society’s conquering the pandemic at an early date,” Wang said a daily briefing.
China has already shipped large amounts of domestically developed vaccines to mainly developing countries, and WHO is in the process of approving Chinese vaccines for emergency use.
That is seen by many as an attempt to boost China’s reputation amid concerns over its growing military and economic influence and willingness to use its political leverage to defend what it considers its core interests.
China is also anxious to dismiss criticisms of missteps in handling COVID-19 after the first cases were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. A team of WHO experts is currently in the city to collect data in a search for clues about the virus’s origins and how it spread around the world.
China has called the virus a mutual challenge facing humanity and even questioned its origin.
Earlier, as the pandemic spread around the world, it sent medical teams and supplies to affected countries and signed agreements with developing nations such as Indonesia and the Philippines to provide priority access to one of its vaccine candidates.
While Chinese vaccines are considered a cheaper and possibly more plentiful alternative, others are also stepping in. Pfizer last month committed to supplying up to 40 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year through COVAX.