China has welcomed the US commitment to donate millions of coronavirus vaccine doses to countries in need. But it criticized Washington for having “suspicious intentions” against China with its pledge. US President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States would send 80 million free doses of Covid-19 vaccines overseas, saying the total was more than that pledged by China and Russia. Biden also said the US wanted to “lead the world with our values” amid “a lot of talk about Russia and China influencing the world with vaccines”. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that Beijing welcomed the commitment but the focus on China was “contemptible”.
China has promised to provide 10 million doses under the Covax scheme, backed by the World Health Organization, for lower and middle-income countries. Critics have described China’s offers as “vaccine diplomacy” aimed at winning diplomatic points and future business opportunities. But Beijing says its vaccines are for the “global public good”.
Experts said the US move came as China was battling tight supplies in its race to vaccinate 40 per cent of its population by July and meet overseas obligations. This might affect Chinese vaccine diplomacy as US vaccine donations could prove be a real game-changer. Once realized, it would make the US the world’s largest supplier of vaccines. Production in China was expected to improve by the second half of the year, but by that time the US and some other Western countries could have most of their populations vaccinated, freeing up a big surplus for donations, as per experts.
All US pharmaceutical companies have fully shared their phase 3 trial data and it should reassert the US position as a leading, trusted supplier. Chinese pharmaceutical companies have established a significant vaccine presence globally, but especially in the developing world. Experts believe this move by the United States not only helps tackle the current wave of the virus, but it also gives more options to the recipient countries. Pfizer and Moderna jabs both have efficacy rates of over 90 per cent, which are higher than the roughly 78 per cent of the WHO-approved shot by Chinese state firm Sinopharm. The efficacy of CoronaVac, made by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech, ranged from 50.7 to 84 per cent.