The World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic response program plans to ship 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm by the end of the month, mostly to Africa and Asia, in its first vaccine shipments from China. China, according to a WHO document.
The Chinese shipments will help the global vaccine sharing program Covax, which is far behind its promise to distribute two billion doses this year due to supply problems and export restrictions from India, a major manufacturer.
The move could also bolster China’s vaccine diplomacy efforts, despite fears about the effectiveness of Chinese immunizers, which some recipient countries refuse or match booster shots from Western manufacturers.
Of the 100 million Chinese vaccines, half will be provided by Sinopharm and half by Sinovac, and deliveries are planned to take place from “July to September 2021,” a WHO document dated 29 July said.
About 10 million Sinopharm vaccines had been shipped by mid-August, a spokesman for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), which collides Covax with WHO, told Reuters.
Sinopharm, Sinovac and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce did not immediately respond to requests for comment when asked when Chinese vaccines will be delivered.
Chinese vaccines have already been allocated to 60 countries, mostly in Africa, which are expected to receive a third of the 100 million doses.
But not all countries want them.
South Africa is listed by Covax as one of the continent’s largest recipients of Chinese vaccines, with an allocation of 2.5 million doses from Sinovac, but a senior public health official told Reuters that the country is currently not qualified to receive the immunizing agents.
“There is not enough information on efficacy against the Delta variant and there is no data on Sinovac in populations with HIV,” explained Nicholas Crisp, deputy director general of the department of health who is overseeing vaccine distribution.
“We do not accept Covax Sinovac because it is premature in our evaluation and planning process,” he told Reuters.
Nigeria, the main recipient of Covax’s Chinese vaccines in Africa, with an allocation of nearly 8 million doses from Sinopharm, has approved the vaccine but ranks it as a “potential” option for its inoculation campaign.