The World Health Organization is set to buy and distribute more than 100 million doses of China's coronavirus vaccine, against the Biden administration's wishes.
The White House notified Congress on Monday that COVAX, the WHO's vaccine distribution network that primarily aids poorer countries, will buy the Chinese-made vaccine, which is widely seen as less effective than the American versions. COVAX has struggled with a shortfall in available vaccines even as the United States shares millions of doses with the world. Chinese pharmaceutical companies Sinovac and Sinopharm are now in line to sell COVAX millions of doses, according to Bloomberg. The Biden administration warned COVAX against relying on the Chinese-made vaccine, and no U.S. funds will be used by the organization to complete the purchase, congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon.
COVAX's reliance on the Chinese-produced vaccine comes amid questions about its efficacy. China has obfuscated data on the vaccine's effectiveness, which some studies say is just 79 percent effective in blocking COVID infections. That is lower than most of the U.S.-made vaccines, which are closer to 95 percent effective. The U.S. government has also published reams of data on vaccines to promote transparency on the issue and encourage Americans to get at least one shot.
Some countries—including the United Arab Emirates, Seychelles, Mongolia, Uruguay, and Chile—that have relied on China's vaccine have seen a growth in COVID cases. In some cases, doctors who took that vaccine still fell ill. The New York Times reported in June that countries that relied on the Chinese-made vaccine are battling COVID outbreaks, raising further questions about the vaccine's effectiveness.
COVAX was established by the United Nations and member countries to distribute vaccines across the world and has been partnering with the United States on the effort. The Biden administration shared 80 million doses of surplus American vaccines with COVAX in June. The doses have been distributed to 46 countries, including South Korea, Mexico, Canada, and Pakistan. At least six million doses were sent to the Middle East, including the West Bank, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Yemen.
The White House referred comment to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
A USAID spokesperson said that the $4 billion U.S. contribution to COVAX did not go toward purchasing Chinese vaccines. Speaking only on background, the spokesperson slammed China for choosing to sell rather than donate vaccines or contribute financially to COVAX.
COVAX is run by the WHO, which has faced questions about its early efforts to cover up China's role in allowing the coronavirus pandemic to spread. The Trump administration pulled $62 million in funding from the WHO last September, citing the organization's close ties to China and efforts to help the Chinese Communist Party mislead the world about the virus.
It also became clear last year that the WHO lied when it claimed China reported the coronavirus's existence early on. The organization was forced to correct the claim. This also contributed to accusations that the WHO helped China obfuscate the virus's origins from the international community.
Update July 13, 9:52 a.m.: This post has been updated with comment from a USAID spokesperson.