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What if China develops the coronavirus cure before we do?

PortandTerminal.com, June 10, 2020

Does China think we would share a vaccine with them if we win the race to the cure?

WASHINGTON – A COVID-19 vaccine is viewed as the key to ending the pandemic. Whichever country develops one first will win a huge geopolitical victory and have a very strong bargaining chip.

Today, Bloomberg is reporting that China may be further ahead in winning the race to a cure than was previously thought.

Select workers being offered trial vaccine

Vaccine test in Wuhan in March Photo: Weibo

Bloomberg reports that China is now offering employees of some large state-run companies the option of being inoculated with two coronavirus vaccines currently in development. The news illustrates just how quickly authorities in China are moving to test the viability of the shots.

Employees intending to travel overseas for work can volunteer to be administered shots developed by China National Biotec Group Co. or CNBG, a subsidiary of Beijing-based Sinopharm Group Co., according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified as the offer hasn’t been made public. The proposal was relayed to state-owned companies by the government body that oversees them, the people said.

If state-run company workers avail themselves of the vaccination, not only will they potentially be protected against the virus but their experience could help generate data on the shots’ efficacy in beating the pathogen that has sickened over 7.2 million people worldwide and killed more than 411,000.

All of this raises a provocative question. If China develops a COVID-19 vaccine before the United States would they share it with us?

America First

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump has announced the United States will pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO).

President Trump’s hard-line, adversarial stance towards China and has put the US at a major disadvantage if the Chinese do beat us to the cure. What if they decide to limit access to it?

Flip the question around and ask it another way.

Does China think we would share a vaccine with them if we win the race to the cure?

They would have good reason not to.

When global leaders gathered virtually last month at the behest of the World Health Organization (WHO) to commit to distributing a future coronavirus vaccine in an internationally equitable way, the United States didn’t join in.

Since then, President Trump has announced his intention to pull America out of the WHO completely.

One disputed report, in particular, gives other cure seeking countries good reasons to doubt America’s readiness to share a vaccine.

In March, the Trump administration tried to acquire exclusive rights to the coronavirus vaccine business of CureVac, a German-based company. Trump aides and CureVac officials adamantly denied the mid-March report, but German officials confirmed and condemned it.

The ongoing global scramble for masks, gloves and other personal protective gear (PPE) offers a harrowing and potentially instructive example of what a fight over sourcing a vaccine would look like.

“The worst situation would be, if when these tools are available, they go to the highest bidder — that would be terrible for the world,”

Melinda Gates, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Here in the United States, sourcing PPE has been a survival of the fittest, knife fight between American states who are supposed to be on the same team. Now imagine the same scenario with a life-saving cure as countries compete with each other to source it.

Global Public Product

“China does have a head start” in the global effort to come up with a vaccine, said one national security official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss U.S. government concerns. “But they also have a pattern of theft and trying to steal everyone else’s research. So you would think they’d be very benevolent [with the vaccine] so as not to be seen as a pariah.”

He may be right.

China said on Sunday that it will increase international cooperation if it succeeds in developing a novel coronavirus vaccine, and would make a vaccine a “global public product” when it is ready.

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