China announced its plans to contribute 10-million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, the global vaccine distribution programme supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, February 3.

The COVAX scheme, which is also backed by the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, aims to start distributing doses of vaccine to poorer countries in February, with 2-billion out of 3-billion doses expected to be delivered before 2022.

China’s foreign ministry said three of its pharmaceutical companies, Sinovac Biotech, China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics submitted applications to join the COVAX scheme, according to Reuters.

Wang Webin, a government spokesperson, announced the Chinese supply plan at a media briefing on Wednesday, saying the country opted into the programme “primarily to meet the urgent needs of developing countries,” but would not go into detail.

The applications are still being reviewed by WHO and they could reach a decision about the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines sometime in March at the earliest, according to Reuters which has seen a COVAX internal document.

Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines are currently being rolled out in countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, while Cansino’s vaccine is used by the Chinese military.

Countries may have signed up for the Chinese vaccines despite the fact that none of the companies have released substantial efficacy data to the public, as early access to Western COVID-19 vaccines has been limited, especially for developing countries.

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