China announced this past week that it’s joined the COVID-19 vaccine initiative COVAX, which is co-led by the World Health Organization; now it is the nation with the largest GDP to join this important initiative to subsidize the costs of vaccination for some of the world’s poorest people. Beijing has been criticized for both maintaining public health standards that allowed for the pandemic in the first place and also repressing information during the pandemic’s onset. Now, the only wealthy nation not participating or in discussions with COVAX is the United States. Will China, where the pandemic originated, offer a disproportionate share into a global COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery fund?
78 Wealthier Nations to Participate
China has also been conducting other discussions with WHO, to separately assess its domestic COVID-19 vaccines. The Chinese report that they pledged $2 billion in May (via President Xi Jinping) to fight COVID-19, and now more support will come for the COVAX Facility. Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying commented for the public, “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.” Sponsored by GAVI, COVAX represents the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator; the latter was founded in April by the WHO, the European Commission, and France. COVAX brings together national governments, global health groups, scientists, manufacturers, and the private sector in order to, “to ensure that people in all corners of the world will get access to COVID-19 vaccines once they are available, regardless of their wealth.” 78 wealthier nations have confirmed that they want to participate in the COVAX Facility. New members were required to join by October 9, but it is not clear if that is a hard deadline.
United States Refuses to Join
In the meantime, last month many media including the Washington Post reported that US wouldn’t participate in the initiative. Although over 170 nations were already in talks to sign up and participate, the Trump Administration made it a point to declare its intention of no involvement, purportedly due to the fact that the World Health Organization was involved. Now with China sharing its intent to join, the US is truly by itself in the world on this front. Trump has called the WHO “China-centric” in its pandemic response. “The United States will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organizations influenced by the corrupt World Health Organization and China,” observed Judd Deere, a White House spokesman. “America is taking a huge gamble by taking a go-it-alone strategy,” according to Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University professor of global health law. Another expert opines that the White House, “could still reverse course and join Covax, or at least let the Senate fund the initiative through Gavi — a political workaround.”
China: Good, Bad & Ugly
Back in March, TrialSite chronicled the good, bad, and outright ugly concerning the Chinese response to the pandemic. Scientists and researchers who focus on this topic believe that the pandemic originated out of Wuhan’s wet market, which led to the most devastating public health crisis in a century. Aside from the severe information suppression that occurred during the onset, the problem of uneven economic development, including checkered and haphazard public health standards, depending on the location in that nation, actually led to, or contributed to the problem. Although TrialSite believes in free trade—and that includes embracing China economically—there will need to be an accounting of the global damages associated with the entire crisis and China, which is now the word’s second largest economy as measure by GDP, will undoubtedly need to contribute considerably to a global economy recovery fund. That is if it wants to be taken seriously in the West as a real leader.