(Bloomberg) -- President Xi Jinping pledged to dramatically expand Covid-19 vaccine exports to two billion doses this year, matching commitments by Group of Seven nations amid warnings about inoculation shortages in the developing world.
Xi announced the goal Thursday in a written address to the first International Forum on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation hosted by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, state broadcaster China Central Television said. The country would also donate $100 million to Covax, the international program backed by the World Health Organization that provides developing countries with vaccines, Xi said.
The developing world is counting on shots from Chinese developers Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm Group to slow the spread of the virus, even though they appear to be less effective than vaccines developed in the West using newer technology. Earlier this week, chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged developed countries to share their supplies instead of redirecting them toward booster shots.
The 2-billion-dose pledge announced by Xi would represent a huge increase in the pace of Chinese exports, with Wang telling a group of Southeast Asian nations Wednesday that the country had so far sent 750 million shots overseas. The number matches total commitments announced by G-7 nations as of their June meeting in the U.K.
President Joe Biden has ramped up American vaccine shipments after the U.S. was accused of hoarding supplies to concentrate on its own population. That effort has been boosted by increased demand for mRNA shots by Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc., which studies have shown to be more effective against virulent variants such as delta.
Still, Chinese exports are likely key to meeting demand for the developing world, where health experts warn that the virus’s unchecked spread could breed more dangerous -- and vaccine-resistant -- variants. Xi last year pledged to make the country’s vaccines a “global public good.”
Both the U.S. and China are counting on vaccine diplomacy to rebuild international prestige after early missteps in the pandemic. Criticism of China’s handling of the first outbreak in the city of Wuhan drove a sharp rise in negative views toward the country globally, while confidence in U.S. expertise has been shaken by runaway outbreaks that have infected more than 35 million Americans.
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