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China vows to make coronavirus vaccine a 'global public good' once ready

The EU has proposed an independent review of the Covid-19 response [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 May, 2020

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China's Xi Jinping also committed $2 billion to global Covid-19 response efforts.
China would make any coronavirus vaccine it developed a "global public good" once it was put into use, President Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly on Monday.

China has five potential vaccines in clinical trials as countries race to find a way to stop the pathogen that has killed over 315,000 people worldwide.

In his speech, Xi said: "After the research and development of China's coronavirus vaccine is completed and it is put into use, it will be made a global public good."

This move would be China's contribution to achieving accessibility and affordability of a vaccine in developing countries as well, Xi said.

More vaccine candidates are in the pipeline and awaiting approval for human trials, said Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission, last week.

Experts say it will take at least 12 to 18 months to develop an effective vaccine, or an even longer period.

Xi also told the assembly's first-ever virtual gathering that China will provide $2 billion in global Covid-19 aid over two years.

The European Union's 27-member bloc and other countries, meanwhile, called for an independent evaluation of WHO's initial response to the coronavirus pandemic "to review experience gained and lessons learned".

Read more: How to develop a Covid-19 vaccine for all

In a speech to the World Health Assembly, Xi said China had provided all relevant outbreak data to WHO and other countries, including the virus' genetic sequence, "in a most timely fashion".

"We have shared control and treatment experience with the world without reservation," Xi said. "We have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need."

The $2 billion over the next two years will support Covid-19 response efforts, particularly in developing countries, Xi said.

The EU resolution proposes that the independent evaluation should be initiated "at the earliest appropriate moment" and should, among other issues, examine "the actions of WHO and their timelines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic".

WHO announced the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency on January 30, its highest level of alert. In the following weeks, WHO warned countries there was a narrowing "window of opportunity" to prevent the virus from spreading globally.

WHO officials, however, repeatedly described the transmission of the virus as "limited" and said it wasn't as transmissible as flu; experts have since said Covid-19 spreads even faster. It declared the outbreak to be a pandemic on March 11, after the virus had killed thousands globally and sparked large epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and elsewhere.

Xi said he also supported the idea of a comprehensive review of the global response to Covid-19.

"This work should be based on science and professionalism, led by WHO and conducted in objective and impartial manner," he said.

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