By Hu Zhangliang, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone
On February 25, 2021, 200,000 vials of COVID-19 vaccine donated by the Chinese government to Sierra Leone arrived in Freetown across continents through concerted efforts and close cooperation by both sides. This is a precious gift from the government and people of China to the government and people of Sierra Leone, who are currently making unwavering efforts battling the pandemic.
Presently, countries all over the world are striving to get COVID-19 vaccines, but the supply can by no means meet the high demand across the board at the moment. China is still faced with the pressure of pandemic resurgence at home and is in earnest need of the vaccines. Nevertheless, China has overcome the difficulties and donated the vaccines to Sierra Leone by special arrangement. The donation is one of the concrete actions in honoring H.E. President Xi Jinping’s solemn pledge of making China’s COVID-19 vaccine a global public good and contribute to the realization of the availability and affordability of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries. It also vividly reflects the strong friendship between China and Sierra Leone as well as the decades-long practice of our two countries and peoples sharing weal and woe.
Over the past one year, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant adverse impact on Sierra Leone’s economic and social development as well as Sierra Leonean people’s lives. Under the staunch leadership of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio, the Sierra Leonean government and people have combated the pandemic with firm action and achieved commendable results. The Chinese side believes that the donated vaccines will substantially help beef up Sierra Leone’s tenacious fight against COVID-19, protect lives of the people especially the frontline medical and health workers, and contribute to Sierra Leone’s final victory over the pandemic.
Unity and cooperation are the international community’s most potent weapon to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. China always upholds that humanity is a community with a shared future. China actively promotes international cooperation against COVID-19 and makes concerted efforts with the international community to protect the life and health of people in all countries.
United Nations data show that as of early February, 2021, a total of 107.3 million vials of COVID-19 vaccines have been vaccinated globally. 6% of the population in North America was vaccinated, ranking first; Europe 3.6%, Asia 0.9%, South America 0.7%, and Africa less than 0.1%. Some developed countries have purchased huge amount of COVID-19 vaccines, but the vaccine needs of less developed countries have not been met in time. Against this backdrop, China is taking concrete actions to promote the fair distribution of vaccines. At the request of the WHO, China decided to provide 10 million doses of Chinese vaccines to the COVAX with a view to meeting the urgent needs of developing countries. China has provided vaccine assistance to more 50 countries including Sierra Leone, and made arrangements to facilitate the importation of Chinese vaccines by nearly 30 countries.
The Chinese government puts the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in the first place, and Chinese companies have been developing vaccines in strict accordance with laws and regulations. The Chinese National Medical Product Administration granted conditional approval for market use of the relevant vaccines based on strict and prudent evaluations. The safety and efficacy of the Chinese vaccines has been proven by scientific data. As of February 20, 2021, 34 million doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine have been administered among the Chinese people in China. The severe adverse reaction rate after vaccination is less than one in a million, which is much lower than the general influenza vaccine commonly used in the world. So long as the vaccines are stored and used in the prescribed appropriate way, there should not be serious safety issues. The effective rate of the donated Chinese vaccine was about 80% in China’s Phase III mid term trial and 86% in the trial in the UAE. The effective rate of preventing mild symptoms from developing into severe cases was 100%.
Many countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Brazil, Argentina, Nepal, Hungary, Turkey, Serbia have approved the use of Chinese vaccines. Many countries sent chartered flights to China for vaccine collection, and many heads of state or government received the vaccines at the airport. At least nine heads of foreign state or government have publicly received Chinese vaccine jabs. These are all votes of confidence in the safety and efficacy of Chinese vaccines.
China does not pursue any geopolitical goals in its international cooperation on the COVID-19 vaccine, does not calculate any economic benefits, nor attaches any political strings in the cooperation. China wishes to make COVID-19 vaccines truly peoples’ vaccine. Accusations from certain people who try to raise doubt over and slander Chinese vaccines or China’s vaccine cooperation are ill motivated, logically messed and baseless. China will continue to work with all parties including Sierra Leone to build a global community of health for all and achieve final victory over the pandemic.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, the 60th anniversary of independence of the Republic of Sierra Leone as well as the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between our two countries. For a long time, China and Sierra Leone have been genuine friends enjoying mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual support, win-win cooperation and common development. In this special year of 2021, China will earnestly implement the important consensus reached by H.E. President Xi Jinping and H.E. President Julius Maada Bio on the development of our bilateral relations and work with Sierra Leone to elevate our Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership to a new high for the betterment of our two countries and peoples.
Finally, I wish the Sierra Leonean government and people greater success in combating the pandemic and achieving socio-economic development.