China, the country that unleashed COVID-19 onto the world almost a year ago, has joined the world's largest alliance aimed at developing and massively distributing coronavirus vaccines to all the world's nations.
On Friday, China announced it had joined the COVAX Initiative created by the World Health Organization (WHO). It's now the biggest economy to date to pledge support to help buy and equitably distribute vaccine doses at affordable prices.
The Trump administration has refused to join COVAX and is instead focusing on its own Operation Warp Speed. Russia, which has developed its own controversial vaccine, has also refused to join COVAX.
COVAX aims to deliver at least two billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021. China is now part of an alliance consisting of 168 countries. Included in this number are 76 wealthy countries.
China is holding talks with WHO to have its locally produced COVID-19 vaccines (there are four in phase 3 clinical trials) assessed for international use as part of COVAX.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, refused to divulge details about the level of support Beijing will provide COVAX.
"We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX," said Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Hua also said China has ample COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capabilities and will prioritize supplying developing countries.
COVAX is co-led by WHO, the GAVI Vaccines Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation based in Norway that finances independent research projects to develop vaccines against emerging infectious diseases (EIDs).
One of the main goals of COVAX is to discourage national governments from hoarding COVID-19 vaccines and to focus on first vaccinating the most high-risk people in every country. COVAX has been coordinating global vaccine development since July.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, a senior advisor to the WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanon-Ghebreyesus has said whether another million people die of COVID-19 doesn't depend on a vaccine.
"It's a function of whether or not we put the tools, approaches and knowledge we have today to work to save lives and prevent transmission," he pointed out.
"If we start thinking about it as a function of the vaccine, people will unnecessarily and unacceptably die as we wait for a vaccine. We should not be waiting."