China has included four COVID-19 vaccines developed and made in the country on a list of vaccine products available for export.
This will facilitate their exports as many pandemic-stricken countries are desperately in need of vaccines.
The four vaccines have already received conditional market approval in China. They are manufactured by Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, Sinovac Life Sciences Co Ltd, CanSino Biologics Inc, and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd.
This was announced jointly by the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Health Commission, and the National Medical Products Administration on Tuesday.
The vaccines have been administered on a large scale in China already. They have also been approved for use in nearly 100 countries worldwide.
Two of the vaccines, produced by Sinovac Life Sciences, a subsidiary of Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd, and Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co Ltd, a unit of Sinopharm which is a State-owned enterprise, have already been approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization.
The endorsement for exports is strong evidence that COVID-19 vaccines developed and made in China are for the people of the world, not just residents in China. It also signals China's efforts to promote global cooperation in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the MOC.
"To ensure the quality and safety of vaccine products and improve trade efficiency, we support Chinese vaccine manufacturers on the list to organize vaccine exports on their own, and to concentrate on increasing product supplies to stabilize market expectations, so that all countries, especially developing countries, will have access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines," the MOC said in a statement on its website late Tuesday.
China will continue to facilitate Chinese vaccine manufacturers to cooperate with COVAX, an international initiative aimed at promoting equitable access to vaccines, and support them for joint research, development and production of vaccines with overseas partners, it said.
The commerce ministry said it will also work with other parties concerned to assist foreign countries in purchasing vaccines from China.
It will also help make the vaccines a global public good through concrete actions, in order to help the world contain the pandemic as early as possible.
From last year till earlier this month, 21 Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccines have entered clinical trials across the world, and eight COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for phase-III clinical trials overseas, the NHC said.
So far, although about 22 percent of the world's population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 2.7 billion doses have been administered globally, only 0.9 percent of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, an online resource that makes "knowledge on big problems accessible and understandable".
Experts said the inclusion of four COVID vaccines on the export list shows China's firm resolve to support critical exports, make COVID vaccines a global public good, and strengthen the global fight against the pandemic.
"Chinese vaccine manufacturers believe it is their responsibility to help the world fight the novel coronavirus," said Feng Duojia, chairman of the China Association for Vaccines.
The world is facing a severe shortage of vaccines. More than 20 billion doses of vaccines need to be administered to at least 5 billion people, in order to curb the pandemic through vaccination programs. But, the target is not only stiff but well beyond the current global capacity, Feng said.
Zhou Mi, a senior researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation in Beijing, said countries without adequate access to COVID vaccines are often severely stricken developing countries－and they have now become even more vulnerable on the global value chain.
"They will likely suffer deeper economic and social losses without external help to ensure vaccines are accessible and affordable," he said.
"Efforts by Chinese vaccine makers to improve global vaccine distribution are key to pandemic control and economic recovery."