China to provide 10 million vaccine doses to COVAX initiative

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labelled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

BEIJING (Reuters) - China plans to provide 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, as three Chinese companies have applied to join the initiative for approval, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

The COVAX scheme, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and GAVI vaccine alliance, is due to start rolling out vaccines to low- and middle-income nations this month, with 2 billion of 3 billion doses expected to be delivered this year.

China’s foreign ministry said in January that Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics have applied to join the scheme.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry, announced the supply plan at a regular media briefing on Wednesday, without going into details.

The three companies were not immediately available for comment.

The WHO, which is reviewing the applications, could make decisions on vaccines made by Sinopharm and Sinovac in March at the earliest, according to a COVAX internal document seen by Reuters.

Vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac are already being rolled out in several countries, including Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

Cansino’s vaccine is approved for use in China’s military.

None of the three companies have released detailed efficacy data of their vaccines to the public yet, but limited early access to rival shots developed by Western drugmakers have prompted many developing countries to sign up for Chinese vaccines.

Reporting by Gabriel Crossley; Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Tom Hogue & Simon Cameron-Moore