With the term “vaccine nationalism” popping up at almost every mention of the Covid-19 vaccine, China is calling for a more unified global approach.
In a wide-ranging interview on KTRadio’s weekly current affairs programme, Rwanda Beyond The Headlines, Wang Jiaxing, Economic and Commercial Counsellor, at the Chinese Embassy in Rwanda, called on the advanced nations of the world, not to act “in a selfish way” when it comes to the distribution of the vaccine.
Of reports that richer nations are buying most of the available stock of the Covid-19 vaccine, Wang Jiaxing suggested this was the wrong approach.
Since almost all countries have signed the COVAX initiative, a mechanism to ensure fair and equitable distribution of the vaccine, he calls for greater collaboration.
“We should follow the leadership of WHO (World Health Organisation) and adopt a more unified approach and distribute the vaccine to all countries in need” he said, “we cannot vaccinate one county, by one country, we first need to vaccinate all the vulnerable people in every country…that’s the priority.”
“We should be like one organisation, one family, under the leadership of WHO, and distribute the vaccine evenly…with big countries shouldering the biggest responsibilities, supporting poorer nations.”
There is, he says, some consternation in China, about what the WHO has called vaccine nationalism.
“Some countries are politicising the vaccine, it is a race against China, not against the virus…we feel pretty angry about that, we are doing our utmost to maximise our production capacity, our vaccine has already been approved for emergency use, in fourty countries.”
China is the only country to have fully contained the virus. Wang Jiaxing puts this to a number of factors, including a “decisive government” what he calls a people centred policy, and a population that takes responsibility for its own health.
“We need to be responsible for ourselves, and for others” he said, “maybe you are young, you have a bit of cough, some minor symptoms, or no symptoms at all, but how about the elderly, and people with chronic diseases, if you don’t care, just go out, it is a kind of intentional killing.”
For Rwandans who might feel that two weeks lockdown to contain the rising infection rate is too exacting, perhaps a thought for Wuhan, at the beginning of the pandemic, then still an epidemic in China, might provide some comfort: the city of eleven million was under the strictest lockdown, for over two months. Some residents never left their houses for up to a month. Now, for Wuhan, lockdown is just a terrible memory.
You can hear the full interview with Wang Jiaxing, Sunday evening, 8pm, on Rwanda Beyond The Headlines, KT Radio, 96.7fm