China’s vaccine makers expand local production in Africa, in face of inaction by Europe

Africa will continue to benefit from vaccine support by China, which is keeping its promise to aid the continent get through its difficulties, Chinese observers said on Tuesday, after two major Chinese vaccine companies localized production lines in Morocco and Egypt.

More Chinese vaccine manufacturing lines are expected to be built in Africa – potentially in South Africa and Zambia – observers said. The move comes at a time when the African continent is in the grip of a third wave of COVID-19 infections and African countries are disappointed at empty promises from European nations.

China has signed a deal with Morocco to start using the established facilities of a Moroccan pharmaceutical firm to make 5 million doses a month of Sinopharm vaccines, according to a notice released by Sinopharm on Tuesday.

The health minister of Morocco said at the signing ceremony on Monday that the project will boost the domestic supply of vaccines in Morocco and send supplies to the African continent and even the world.

This is China’s second vaccine production line in Africa after one in Egypt.

Also on Monday, Egypt announced that it had produced the first 1 million doses of vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac, using its local facilities, with the daily output reaching 300,000 doses. If the supply of raw materials is sufficient, daily output could double, China Central Television reported, citing Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

Madbouly said the localization of production of Sinovac vaccines is vital for Egypt, and the country hopes that China could provide more support for the expansion of Egypt’s production capacity.

Sinovac has delivered raw materials that can yield 2 million doses of vaccines, and it has also dispatched technicians to supervise the vaccine production process, the report said.

As China honors its commitment of making China’s COVID-19 vaccines a global public good and actively contributing to the global fight against the epidemic, promises but inaction by Europe to provide vaccines to Africa have disappointed the continent.

Strive Masiyiwa, the African Union special envoy who has been delegated to lead efforts to procure COVID-19 vaccines for the continent, blasted Europe, saying that “not one dose, not one vial, has left a European factory for Africa,” according to a report by the Associated Press.

He Wenping, director of the African Studies Section at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that since the start of the pandemic, China and Africa have shown solidarity to get over the difficulties, not only with words but with real actions.

China is keeping its promise to help Africa get through the public health crisis, forming a sharp contrast with some Western countries that just make gestures out of political calculation, hoard vaccine orders or restrict exports of raw materials, He said.

Song Wei, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Tuesday that moving production to Africa will increase access to vaccines, help boost the economic recovery of local partners and contribute to new industrial capacity cooperation with China in the post-pandemic era.

China’s support to Africa comes without any political conditions, and it is helping the continent to develop a capacity for independent development. This has been the traditional way of China’s aid to Africa since 1956, Song said.

China has offered COVID-19 vaccines to more than 40 African nations and the AU Commission. At the same time, China will continue to support the localization of vaccine production in the continent, President Xi Jinping said on Monday night in a videoconference with leaders of France and Germany.

The possibility of more Chinese vaccine production lines being launched in Africa can’t be ruled out, according to Song. She said “we are cautiously positive about having more vaccine production lines in Africa due to the relatively underdeveloped public health facilities and capabilities, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa and Zambia are the two potential countries where China may establish vaccine production lines.”

The AU emphasized the need to scale up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in Africa so as to achieve universal and equitable access, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

However, the dramatic vaccine divide cannot simply be reversed by China’s contribution, experts said, calling for the US and other countries to act to balance vaccine distribution to achieve global herd immunity.

The AP quoted Masiyiwa as saying that Africa needs 1.6 billion doses in a double-dose regime, or 800 million for a single-dose regime, to meet the goal of vaccinating 60 percent of the population.

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