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China’s Decision to Join COVAX Hints at a Multilateral Approach to Its Budding Vaccine Diplomacy Agenda

Friday’s surprise announcement that China would join more than 150 other countries in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, marked a sharp pivot in Beijing’s budding vaccine diplomacy strategy. Until last week, Chinese officials had resisted joining the WHO-backed vaccine alliance, hinting instead at a bilateral distribution strategy that would fulfill President Xi Jinping’s promise to make any future C19 vacinne available to Africa and other developing regions as a “global public good.”

The key question now for Africa is whether the Chinese will leverage their new relationship with Covax as a possible distribution partner for the various Chinese C19 vaccines that are now in late-stage development. Currently, four of the world’s ten vaccines in phase three clinical trials are produced by Chinese companies.

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