Chinese ‘vaccination diplomacy’ begins as gunfight in Turkey, Latin America

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Chinese coronavirus vaccine is expected to be introduced in Turkey later this month, and several Latin American countries will also receive COVID-19 vaccinations developed in the East Asian nation in the coming months.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Wednesday that his country has ordered 50 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, with the first shipment expected to arrive on December 11, a statement said.

Turkish laboratories will evaluate the safety of the vaccine and the first results of Phase III clinical trials, with approval for emergency use possible soon, he said.

“If developments continue to be as positive as we expect, Turkey would be among the first countries in the world to start early-stage vaccination trials,” Koca said.

The vaccine is one of five COVID-19 vaccines being developed in China and is currently in large-scale Phase III clinical trials, which are usually required prior to approval.

Although none of these studies have been completed, the Chinese authorities have approved the CoronaVac vaccine and others for limited emergency use in high-risk groups.

While the chairman of one of China’s vaccine developers, Sinopharm, said the company’s vaccine has been given to about one million people in China with no reports of serious adverse effects, experts inside and outside the country have expressed concerns about the use of vaccines that have not gone through the full process of clinical trials, Nature reported.

A high-ranking U.S. military commander, Admiral Craig Faller, said in a video conference with members of the Defense Writers Group on Wednesday that China was trying to “deploy and use” COVID-19 vaccines worldwide to stop the pandemic – in places like Turkey, for example – while the United States wanted to “take care of itself first,” according to a New York Times article.

The commander said that China was likely to beat the United States in what he called its “own backyard” – in terms of Central and South America – through “vaccine diplomacy,” the report said.

Vaccines developed in China are being tested in clinical trials in Latin American countries such as Brazil and Peru, while Mexico has agreed to purchase 35 million doses of the COVID 19 syringe manufactured by the Chinese company CanSino Biologics.

The Brazilian state of São Paulo has ordered more than 45 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, with approximately one million doses already received, Reuters reported.

The biomedical center of the Butantan Institute of São Paulo, which conducts late-stage trials of the vaccine throughout the state, said efficacy results are expected by December 15. The governor of the state suggested that despite frequent criticism of the Chinese vaccination by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, vaccination could begin in January.

In July, the Chinese government announced that it would provide a $1 billion loan to Latin American and Caribbean countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

In an article published on Thursday, the state-owned Chinese media company Global Times criticized the characterization that it is engaged in “vaccination diplomacy” in Latin America in order to win support.

“Such normal cooperation has been described by the U.S. media as China’s “vaccination diplomacy” to win support in Latin America, proving once again that the U.S. measures China’s generosity by its own average,” the article said.

“The U.S. has long considered Latin America as its ‘backyard,’ and although it cannot provide it with vaccines, it does not allow China to do so,” the article said, quoting Lü Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences who studies U.S. studies.

According to the Global Times, Lü said that the ongoing discourse in the U.S. media about the “arms race” was “unnecessary” because vaccine manufacturers are likely to have difficulty meeting global demand in the next six months.

Lü told the news agency that countries with the appropriate capacities should produce as many vaccine doses as possible. The expert said that if there is a vaccine race, it is “not between China and the US, but a race against time to save lives.

“The U.S. may continue its ‘America first’ strategy by giving priority to domestic needs and the supply of its allies, but it should not be narrow-minded and hinder China’s cooperation and assistance to other countries,” the article said, quoting Lü.

In the Defense Writers Group video conference, Faller said he would not “judge” China’s vaccine business in Latin America.

“You see, we are in a global pandemic, and I have taken the approach here that any help is legitimate help that is welcome help,” Faller said. “If the vaccine works, people will have to do what they have to do as a nation.

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