Vaccine listing benefits global supply

The decision announced on Friday by the World Health Organization in Geneva to grant emergency use listing (EUL) to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in China represents a milestone achievement. The successful EUL application is built on years of training and research by Chinese scientists, and decades of investment, coordinated efforts, and reform on the part of the government, national regulators, and the manufacturers themselves.

SONG CHEN/CHINA DAILY

The decision announced on Friday by the World Health Organization in Geneva to grant emergency use listing (EUL) to a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in China represents a milestone achievement. The successful EUL application is built on years of training and research by Chinese scientists, and decades of investment, coordinated efforts, and reform on the part of the government, national regulators, and the manufacturers themselves.

We look forward to such recognition of more Chinese-produced vaccines in the future, and not only for COVID-19. This marks a new chapter in China's role in global public goods supply in health, building on its R&D capability and manufacturing capacity, as well as its commitment to contribute substantially to global health.

The highly anticipated WHO listing of the vaccine communicates both at home and abroad that the vaccines are of assured quality, safe for use, meets the WHO's requirements for efficacy, and will be an important tool in fighting the global pandemic which has claimed over 3 million lives worldwide.

At this point last year, we hoped-but could not be confident-that the world would have even one effective vaccine against a completely new virus. It is a testament to the ingenuity and dedication of scientists and researchers in China and around the globe, and the resilience and power of humankind in fighting a common challenge, with Friday's announcement adding to the five EULs already granted by the WHO for COVID-19, with another five vaccines still under active review.

These vaccines are a critically important part of the COVID-19 pandemic toolkit. In addition to contact tracing, testing, isolating and/or quarantine where needed, personal protection measures like masking and handwashing, or improved medical treatments, COVID-19 vaccines will help us put the pandemic behind us.

But that won't happen until the vaccines are made available to everyone, everywhere.

At home in China, there is urgent need for us to press ahead with the unfinished businesses of the response. We need to continue to adhere to the public health measures (hygiene, physical distancing, masks) that remain essential in a vaccinated world while the pandemic continues around us.

At the same time, we need to overcome any COVID-19 complacency and commit to be vaccinated. The success of the pandemic response in 2020 and earlier this year has meant that, in China, we now live mostly unrestricted in our daily routines. That may make some of us think that getting the vaccine is something we will do eventually, but there is no rush.

The reality, however, is the sooner we are all vaccinated, the sooner can we look forward to a day when trade and tourism can resume. Each one of us has a part to play in shortening the length of time between now and when COVID is truly a thing of the past.

Around the world, more than a billion vaccine doses have been administered. Among those, 100 million were administered in April-but only 1 percent (1 million doses) went to low-income countries. The rest-99 million doses-went to high-and middle-income countries. Collectively, we need to do more to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are made available as part of a coordinated, multilateral response via the global COVAX facility established last year.

Uncoordinated bilateral deals, while well-intentioned, have made this more difficult and resulted in a situation where, at the start of this month, 14 countries had still not received any vaccines at all. Working through established multilateral systems like COVAX remains the best way to ensure equitable access to the current supply.

In addition, it is imperative that we increase global supply. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called on vaccine producing countries to accelerate technology transfer, either through voluntary licensing, the sharing of licenses through the COVID-19 technology access pool, or by waiving intellectual property rights through a World Trade Organization agreement. We welcome recent comments by Chinese manufacturers that they are undertaking efforts toward technology transfer in other countries and encourage rapid acceleration of these commitments to expand local supply.

Today we take a moment to recognize an important advance in the development of China's global vaccine contributions. Tomorrow, we redouble our efforts to stamp out the virus at home and abroad, by working collectively to ensure equitable access to these lifesaving vaccines.

One vaccine has received EUL, but we know that there are more than 15 additional COVID-19 vaccines in advanced development in China. Today's milestone achievement should spur other manufacturers to pursue this route and add to the global vaccine arsenal. It should also encourage an even greater contribution from China to global supply and vaccine equity.

The author is WHO Representative to China.


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