Be Wary of Two Problems in the Global Fight Against Covid-19
Signed Article by H.E. Dr. Xiao Jianguo, Chinese Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Published on Suara Timor Lorosae
18 June 2021
At the request of the Timorese government, 100,000 doses Sinovac vaccines donated by Chinese government to Timor-Leste safely arrived at Dili Airport on June 5th. This is the largest vaccine donation from a single source. On June 14th, the vaccines were put into use in Timor-Leste. Many Timorese have been vaccinated, as well as a lot of overseas Chinese here. It’s not only a demonstration of the tangible benefits the friendship between the two countries brought to their peoples, but also a concrete action to implement President Xi Jinping’s proposal that vaccines should be made a global public good.
Facing the unprecedented pandemic, there are two problems we must be wary of. One is the problem of uneven vaccine distribution, and the other is the political manipulation of virus origin tracing.
Firstly, Vaccine is the most powerful weapon to fight COVID-19, but the problem of uneven vaccine distribution has become more acute. A handful of developed countries have hoarded vaccines, leaving developing countries struggling with insufficient ones. And among the vaccines horded by developed countries, some has exceeded their expiry dates and been wasted. Such moves remind me of a line of a Chinese poetry “while meat and wine go to waste behind the vermilion gates of the rich, the poor is frozen to death on an empty stomach by the roadside.” Recently, the Group of Seven (G7) announced plans to donate 1 billion doses of vaccine to poor countries. This is certainly welcome. However, in the face of the situation where the virus is moving faster than the global distribution and vaccination of vaccines, the pledge was too little and too late. In terms of doses administered, the imbalance between the G7 and low-income countries, as defined by the World Bank, is 73 to 1.
Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of World Health Organization (WHO) said recently that the inequitable distribution of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the chances of a variant emerging that renders vaccines less effective. The high-income countries have administered almost 44% of the world’s doses, while low-income countries have administered just 0.4%. Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all nations, not just those with the fewest vaccines. Tedros hopes at least 70% of the world’s population vaccinated by the next G7 meeting in next year. To do that, WHO needs at least 11 billion doses. According to the WHO, COVAX has so far shipped only more than 87 million doses globally.
China has played a significant role for ensuring fair access to vaccines in the world. At the recent on-line Global Health Summit, President Xi Jinping proposed to reject vaccine nationalism and find solutions to issues concerning the production capacity and distribution of vaccines, making vaccines more accessible and affordable in developing countries to bridge the immunization gap. China has provided free vaccines to more than 80 developing countries in urgent need and exporting vaccines to 43 countries. China has joined the WHO-initiated COVAX and pledged 10 million doses to meet the urgent need of developing countries. In the coming 3 years, China has pledged that it would offer 3 billion US dollars to help developing countries to improve their health system and economic recovery. In addition, China announced support for waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines and would promote its vaccine companies in transferring technologies to other developing countries and carrying out joint production.
Several days ago, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China has delivered more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to ASEAN countries when chairing the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of dialogue relations between China and ASEAN. China will continue to play its role as a responsible major country to do its best to provide vaccines to ASEAN countries, strengthen cooperation in vaccine R&D, production, procurement, vaccination, and supervision with other countries, and build production and distribution centers to help make vaccines affordable and accessible in the region. It proved that China’s efforts are sincere. China’s practice has alleviated the problem of inequitable distribution of vaccines and benefited many developing countries.
Secondly, the pandemic puts the entire world at risk, no single country can address the challenges by its own, and no single country can stay immune on its own. This is a global battle, all countries, especially major powers, must bridge differences, unite and cooperate, and stop sowing division or distrust.
Take the virus origin tracing for example, it is a scientific issue which should rely on scientists and should not be politicized. China has been open and transparent on this issue. China is the first to cooperate with the WHO on origin tracing. According to a report released by the WHO based on a joint WHO-China study of the origins of COVID-19 in March, the virus is “extremely unlikely” to have leaked from a lab. The joint study carried out by both Chinese and foreign experts led to a consensus based on scientific research and facts. The foreign experts involved in the joint study, were all selected by the WHO, and they were representative and independent in the research, a sure thing beyond question.
However, some politicians and media outlets recently openly questioned and tried to overthrow the conclusion made by the WHO, brought up again irresponsible conjectures that the COVID-19 escaped from a Chinese lab, which had been proved untrue by scientific research, attempting to concoct a new round of conspiracy theories regarding the origins of the virus and to pull a political trick to defame and scapegoat China for the outbreak. Ignoring the facts and scientific evidence, it is a typical political manipulation. It is ridiculous. As ironically put in an article published recently on the website of Russia Today, the US’s accusation that a Chinese lab leaked the virus is supported by “much conclusive evidence” as it used to accuse Iraq of having chemical weapons.
The origin tracing of the virus is important and complicated, and must be handled in a professional, impartial and constructive manner. It should be conducted according to science, based on worldwide studies and research by scientists and medical experts. It should be free from political interference, respect the sovereign equality of nations and avoid a presumption of guilt. All countries closely related to the virus should be covered by field missions. The whole process should be open, transparent, objective and rational, and led by the WHO. The goal of origin tracing is to help the world better understand this kind of virus and deal more effectively with major infectious diseases in the future, and the efforts shall bolster the ability of the UN system to perform its mandate, strengthen international solidarity and cooperation, and improve the system and capacity for global governance in the area of public health. It’s worthy mentioning that, in history, it took more than 60 years for human being to find out the influenza came from birds in nature. And there is still no clear conclusion on the origin tracing of the “SARS” in 2002, but this did not prevent human beings from fighting against the influenza and “SARS” and defeat them. Human beings eradicated Smallpox by inoculation without any scientific tracing the origin of the highly contagious disease. Facts have proved that politicizing the epidemic, stigmatizing other countries, and political maneuvering shows no respect for science and no sense of responsibility for people’s lives, it hasn’t made one any stronger against the virus, but have only hindered the mainstream of international anti-pandemic cooperation.
Facing to the severe COVID-19, there is a greater recognition of the importance of the concept of “a community with a shared future for mankind” and the urgency of building a global community of health for all. At this critical time, China and Timor-Leste firmly stand together and cooperate to fight against the epidemic. This is the best interpretation of a global community of health for all. As a good neighbor, good friend and good partner, China is willing to continue to deepen its anti-epidemic cooperation with Timor-Leste to beat the epidemic at an early date, to promote a fairer and better world, a safer and richer Timor-Leste.
“May I ask where the God of Plague is going, paper barges aflame and candle-light illuminating the sky”. That is a Chinese traditional way to celebrate the elimination of a disease. We look forward to this day coming soon in every corner of the world.