The international community should help ensure the “accessibility and affordability of vaccines” in the continent, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday while hosting a virtual meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
China holds the 15-member council’s rotating presidency for the month of May.
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“The international community should give more help in pandemic prevention materials, medical supplies, technology and funds, especially through free assistance, preferential procurement, technology transfer, cooperative production and other means to ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa,” Wang said.
“Africa is an important part of the global anti-pandemic effort. An urgent task now is to build a defence line against the pandemic in Africa … China calls on all countries with the ability to provide vaccines to Africa urgently,” he said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the meeting, titled “Peace and Security in Africa”, that of the 1.4 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses administered around the world, only 24 million, or less than 2 per cent, had reached Africa.
Wu Peng, director of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Africa department, said on Thursday that China had provided vaccines to nearly 40 African countries.
The shots were donated or sold at “favourable prices”, he told a press conference.
In an apparent dig at the United States, Wu compared China’s actions to those of “some countries that have said they have to wait for their own people to finish the vaccination before they could supply the vaccines to foreign countries”.
“We believe that it is, of course, necessary to ensure that the Chinese people get vaccinated as soon as possible, but for other countries in need, we also try our best to provide vaccine help,” he said.
According to Bridge Consulting in Beijing, African nations have ordered about 33 million vaccine doses from China and been gifted 5.45 million by Beijing. China has also donated 10.5 million vaccines to countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Most of the Chinese vaccines sold overseas are made by Sinovac, while most of the donated shots come from Sinopharm, whose product was approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization on May 7.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, about 40 million Africans have been pushed back into extreme poverty during the pandemic. The continent’s economic growth is forecast to be 3.4 per cent this year, against a global figure of 6 per cent.
“Equitable and sustainable vaccine roll-out worldwide is the quickest path towards a fast and fair recovery,” Guterres said.
“This requires sharing of doses, removing export restrictions, ramping up local production and fully funding the ACT-Accelerator and its Covax Facility.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that Western countries, especially the US, had stockpiled excess vaccine doses and should “immediately lift export restrictions and increase supply to make up for the shortfall in developing countries”.
The US said on Monday it would share an additional 20 million vaccine doses in the coming six weeks, but did not say which countries would receive them.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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