Tensions between the US and China over the vaccine

The 194 countries that are members of WHO met remotely in an Assembly to coordinate efforts to respond to the pandemic

Doctor wearing latex gloves while holding syringes.

China and the United States, in dispute over the coronavirus vaccine. / Photo: Rawpixel

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: Tensiones entre EE.UU y China por la vacuna

Amid the World Health Assembly, vaccine approval and the future of the coronavirus were paramount. The assembly is held every year in Geneva but due to the contingency this year it took place virtually and, as expected, the topic was only the Covid-19, unlike other years where various global health issues are covered.

To the tension between China and the United States, was added the tension of what to do with a potential vaccine. Thus, what would be a global good has become one more power struggle between the two superpowers.

The assembly was no exception for the tensions to come to light and Washington took the opportunity to reiterate the accusations against China about the mismanagement of the crisis by hiding the magnitude of the virus, of which it has also accused the WHO and for which it temporarily withdrew its monetary support to the organization. Among the allegations, the US and other countries have also called for an investigation into the possibility that the virus had been released in a Chinese laboratory to be clarified and to continue.

Due to these confrontations, the WHO director, Dr. Tredos Adhanom, affirmed that the entire Coronavirus crisis has exposed the geopolitical divisions that permeate even in times where health must be taken as a greater common good.

Xi Jinping, president of China, assured that his country "always showed transparency and responsibility" and accepted that an evaluation be carried out on the responses to the new coronavirus, once the contingency passes.

Vaccine, a global public good

As the chances of having a vaccine available increase, so do tensions. That is why, in its statements, China affirmed that if they obtained the vaccine, it would be a global public good.

This statement comes after the pharmaceutical company Sanofi, from France, that is working to get the vaccine, said that if they got it, the first country to have it would be the United States. This caused a stir in the international community, which demands that everyone has equal access to the vaccine and that there be no market-based priorities, since the decision would be made because the US has been a great investor in the search for the vaccine.

Thus, declaring it a public good from now on would tip the balance for some countries to support China in the race for the vaccine. In addition to this, Xi Jinping said, according to Bloomberg, that in the next two years China will provide $ 2 billion to support the fight against the pandemic in developing countries.

Also read: New outbreaks of coronavirus after reduced restrictions

The WHO supports this Chinese initiative and wants to fight so that those who are in search of the vaccine do so on that principle. According to El Tiempo, Costa Rica proposed a plan for this in which “pharmaceutical companies will be asked to voluntarily donate their covid-19 related intellectual property to a common global group. Countries, then, would be free to decide for themselves how to apply the rights. ” Following this plan, the concern of many countries is that access to the vaccine is only available to those who can pay more, as it gives governments the possibility to restrict patent rights as each one decides.

China expects the five vaccines prepared in its country to pass the second phase of clinical trials in July. Meanwhile, Donald Trump assures that the US will have a vaccine before the end of the current year.

Regardless of who is in command in the race, China has called on the United States to unite and cease tensions as the contingency passes, assuring that the world needs to be united. "Maintaining stable relations between China and the United States is in the fundamental interest of the two peoples and of peace and stability in the world," a Chinese government spokesman told the press. For his part, Trump assured that although he maintains a good relationship with his Chinese counterpart, he will not meet with him due to his mishandling of the pandemic.

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