China’s vaccine diplomacy finds takers in Southeast Asia

China earlier this month also offered its vaccines to Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

China has signed deals with 20 countries, many of which are in Southeast Asia, to offer its home-developed COVID-19 vaccines, China’s media has reported.

With five vaccines being developed in China, Beijing is offering them both as donations and on a commercial basis. Among the countries that are ordering Chinese vaccines are Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, Ukraine, and Serbia, according to reports in the Chinese State media.

Pakistan on Monday became the first country in South Asia to approve a Chinese vaccine, giving the green light for emergency use for Sinopharm’s vaccine. Its officials are also in talks with another Chinese company, Cansino Biologics, for orders.

China earlier this month also offered its vaccines to Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as it held a multilateral dialogue with the four countries and Pakistan on anti-epidemic prevention, but so far hasn’t agreed orders.

A third Chinese vaccine CoronoVac, by the firm Sinovac, which is already being used fairly widely in China, has so far had the biggest takers overseas among the five Chinese vaccines, including 125.5 million orders from Indonesia, whose President Joko Widodo received a shot of CoronoVac live on television, and 14 million from Malaysia, Chinese media reported.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi offered the vaccine during a recent tour of Southeast Asia, with Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar also expected to announce orders in addition to some vaccines donated China. China has offered 3 lakh to Myanmar.

Data from Brazil has, however, raised questions on the efficacy of Sinovac’s vaccine, with a wide range of results reported from its trials in different countries. Its efficacy rate was found to be 50.4% in all cases in the Brazil trial including very mild cases, rising to 78% for “mild to severe” cases. Turkey, however, put the figure at 91.25% while Indonesia said it was 65.3% effective.

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