China's decision to join COVAX, an international initiative aimed at ensuring equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, has been widely welcomed by the international community.
China on Thursday signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, officially joining COVAX, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Friday.
With four COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the final stage of clinical trials, China is by far the largest economy supporting the initiative.
"We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX," said the spokesperson. "China will also strengthen vaccine cooperation with relevant countries through the COVAX network."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday that she welcomes China's move. "We are all in this together. Multilateralism is key to reaching our #GlobalGoal of access to vaccines everywhere, for everyone who needs them," said von der Leyen on Twitter.
The chief executive of the European Union (EU) said the bloc looks forward to working with China and other partners to provide the common good.
On Sept. 18, the European Commission confirmed its participation in the COVAX Facility for equitable access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines, following its expression of interest on Aug. 31 and its announcement of a contribution of 400 million euros (473 million U.S. dollars).
Josep Borrell, minister of foreign affairs of the EU, also welcomed China's announcement to join COVAX.
"Only a truly global effort and commitment can win the fight against the pandemic," said Borrell. "Now it is about action and delivery."
Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi and a medical doctor specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and global health, is also pleased to welcome China's participation in the international initiative.
"Delighted to welcome China to the #COVAX Facility! This announcement gives even more momentum to our mission to ensure future #COVID19 vaccines are distributed equitably because no one is safe until everyone is safe," said Berkley on Twitter on Friday.
Antoine Bonda, an expert at the Foundation for Strategic Studies, was quoted by Les Echos as saying that China's decision was in line with its commitment to playing a responsible role as a great power, a stark contrast to the United States, which also reflects China's confidence in its ability to develop a COVID-19 vaccine in the near future.
The U.S. administration said last month that it will not join global efforts with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop, manufacture and equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
Launched in April 2020, COVAX is co-led by the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO.
According to a WHO news release on Aug. 24, 172 economies have been engaged in discussions to potentially participate in COVAX to provide countries worldwide with equitable access to safe and effective vaccines, once they are licensed and approved.
Nine CEPI-supported candidate vaccines are part of the COVAX initiative, with a further nine candidates under evaluation, said the release.
The goal of COVAX is to deliver 2 billion doses of safe, effective vaccines that have passed regulatory approval and/or WHO prequalification.
These vaccines will be offered equally to all participating countries, proportional to their populations, initially prioritizing healthcare workers, then expanding to cover vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions, according to the WHO.