China Joins WHO’s Vaccine Program, Filling Void Left by Trump

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China is participating in a World Health Organization-backed vaccine effort, stepping in to fill a void in global health leadership after U.S. President Donald Trump spurned the program.

Beijing on Thursday joined the $18 billion Covax initiative that aspires to give lower-income countries the same access to vaccines as wealthier nations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Details of China’s commitment, including its amount of funding, weren’t immediately disclosed.

“Even when China is leading the world with several vaccines in advanced stages of R&D and with ample production capacity, it still decided to join Covax,” spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement Friday. “We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support Covax.”

President Xi Jinping promised in May that vaccines developed by China would be made a global “public good” to be shared by all. The decision could also help the country’s image following widespread criticism from abroad over how it handled the initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, where Covid-19 first emerged last year.

A global survey this week by the Pew Research Center found that negative perceptions of China reached record highs in the U.S. and other major economies. In nine of the countries — including Australia, Canada, Germany, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. — negative opinion reached its highest point since the nonpartisan organization began polling on the topic more than a decade ago.

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