Alwaght- China pledged on Monday to deliver 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa.
In a speech via video link at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping said 600 million vaccine doses would be donations and 400 million doses would be provided through other means, such as joint production by Chinese firms and relevant African countries.
China has already supplied nearly 200 million doses of its homegrown Sinopharm vaccine to Africa, where vaccination rates have fallen behind amid growing concern over the spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, identified first in South Africa earlier this month.
“We must continue to fight together against COVID," Xi told the summit, adding that China would send about 1,500 medical workers to Africa. “We must prioritize the protection of our people and close the vaccination gap.”
The African continent has been severely grappling with vaccine disparity, with only 6 percent of its population fully vaccinated. The emergence of the new COVID-19 has compounded the problem.
Analysts have said that the new COVID-19 variant tends to emerge in regions with relatively poor epidemic response capabilities, making regions like Africa extremely vulnerable.
More than a dozen countries in the African continent have vaccinated just 1 or 2 percent of their populations, as many Western nations have hoarded the global vaccine supply.
Around 10 percent of people in Africa have received one dose of a vaccine, compared with 64 percent in North America and 62 percent in Europe.
While South Africa has reached 27% vaccination rates, its rural areas are still lagging in single figures.
The victims of global vaccine inequality are now facing the Omicron variant, which the UK’s Department of Health has termed the most “complex” and “worrying” variant seen so far, prompting travel restrictions on South Africa and its neighbors.
Meanwhile, the cases of Omicron variant have already been identified in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, China's Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands and Scotland, Reuters said on Monday.
South Africa's President, Cyril Ramaphosa, also speaking via video link during the Monday’s summit, thanked China for its support and said African economies should be able to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines.