Vaccine cooperation essential for global anti-COVID-19 effort: experts

Tsinghua University President Qiu Yong delivered opening remarks at the webinar.

Public health experts from both China and the U.S. on Monday urged their respective nations to expand global access to COVID-19 vaccines in order to bring about a speedy global economy recovery, adding that vaccine cooperation is crucial to curbing the spread of the virus around the globe.

At a webinar co-hosted by Tsinghua University and the Brookings Institution, Zhong Nanshan, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and China’s leading respiratory disease expert, noted that the idea of so-called natural immunity is unrealistic and inhuman, and producing improved vaccines and cocktail antibodies would play an essential role in addressing the next wave of the pandemic in the near future.

Echoing Zhong’s view, Dr. Tom Frieden, former Director of the U.S Center for Disease Control and Prevention, noted that vaccines hold the prospect of eventually bringing an end to the pandemic, but there are certain issues that still need to be addressed, as vaccine rollout at the current stage has been slow, and if there is not enough manufacturing, demand for the vaccine will outstrip supply for many months, maybe even years.

“Mass vaccination requires at least two to three years to achieve herd immunity, and that requires global collaboration. The discovery of multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants globally and the mutation of COVID-19 pose a big challenge in the latest fight against the pandemic, as they diminish the effectiveness of vaccination and antibody treatments,” Zhong further added.

Experts from both China and the US discuss pandemic control cooperation between the two nations.

To address such issues, experts from both China and the U.S. agreed that the world should cooperate in areas such as vaccine development and distribution, in an effort to tackle possible future waves of COVID-19.

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, Director at Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity, said that there was a need for a global food and drugs administration of testing and rational distribution of diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines to mitigate diseases, as they pose not just a threat to human health, but also to climate and food security. “We need to work together in a global fashion.”

Dr. Gao Fu, Director-General of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China and the U.S. should work together to promote COVAX, a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. According to his estimate, it was unlikely that the world would make a complete return to normal as before, but it could see relative normality by next summer if the current trends persisted.

“Health threats can unite or divide the world, vaccine nationalism will backfire. Only global collaboration against the virus can lead to global recovery,” said Frieden.

The webinar, which was live-streamed on various social media platforms, was viewed by millions of viewers worldwide. 

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