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[Beijing Forum 2020] Making vaccines a global public good best response to nationalism: expert

DEC . 07 2020
Peking University, December 7, 2020: Making vaccines a global public good is the best way to fight against nationalism, imperialism, and conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, an expert from the International Vaccine Institute said Saturday, calling for global effort in maintaining the safety and efficacy of vaccines. 

Photo: VCG

Vaccine nationalism, vaccine imperialism, and vaccine security are harming the sharing of vaccines across countries. COVID-19 conspiracy theories and unfiltered science are also standing in the way of true and frank discussion of the data, Jerome Kim, the director general of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), said in a keynote speech online at the Beijing Forum held at Peking University on Saturday.

Kim said science around COVID, around COVID vaccines, and around the safety and efficacy of these vaccines is the best response for these voices that disrupt the world addressing the global health crisis frankly and timely. 

"We have to be transparent. We have to believe in internationalism and globalism," he said, adding that we also need to believe in the ultimate triumph of the public health crisis and vaccines as a global public good.

At the forum on Saturday, Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that China had shared the genome sequence of the virus with the world on January 12, which was the first free public good provided by China to the world.

Many people don't understand what it means to share the genome sequence. In fact, as long as you know the genome sequence, you can produce diagnostic reagents and develop vaccines, Wu explained at the forum.

Wu said he remembered that when the HIV was isolated, researchers who did it applied for a patent, but China did not apply for such an intellectual property on the genome sequence of the COVID-19.

China shared it with all other countries in the world free of charge. In the first three weeks of the outbreak, China's response laid a scientific foundation for the global control of the pandemic, the Chinese epidemiologist noted.

As of Wednesday, there are 214 vaccines under development worldwide, of which 51 have entered clinical studies (14 in China), and 14 have entered Phase III clinical trials (6 in China). Among the six vaccines that have entered Phase III clinical trials in China, four are inactivated vaccines, chnfund.com reported.

Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: VCG

Kim described COVAX, which is joined by around 190 countries, as a key platform for the equal distribution of vaccines.

Two billion doses of WTO prequalified vaccine will be available to about 190 countries that are part of COVAX by the end of 2021. However, Kim pointed out that 8.8 billion doses have been preordered primarily by high-income countries, and current models predict that we won't have enough vaccine until 2023 or 2024.

If high-income countries don't distribute the first 2 billion doses of vaccine equally, the world will see the number of global COVID-19 deaths double. 

"Anti-science with its misinformation, rejectionism, vaccine hesitancy, and finally politics, the politics around partisanship, miscommunication, and the economic hardship experienced by many people around the world have created a sense that maybe this was all a manufactured crisis," Kim noted.

Source: Global Times