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  • Vaccine development and distribution: A demonstration of shared values between China and Norway

    Some claim that there are conflicts between the Chinese and Norwegian values. Such views are obviously driven by ideological bias. As demonstrated through the fight against the pandemic, China and Norway not only share common values, but also are concrete and pragmatic in taking actions.

    During the recent UN Security Council Ministerial Open Briefing on COVID-19 Vaccine Issue, both the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen S?reide expressed a same viewpoint. Wang stated that "no country in need of vaccines should be left behind, nor should any people waiting for the vaccine be forgotten", while S?reide expressed that "we must ensure that no one is left behind". With the concerted effort of the global society, including countries like China and Norway, several vaccines have already been launched. In our two countries as well as many other developing countries, more and more people are getting vaccinated everyday. Though uncertainties are still lurking on the horizon, we begin to see a glimmering dawn at the end of the tunnel. What kind of insight has the pandemic given us, apart from grief and pain? This is a question we should all reflect upon.

    Pandemic is not something new. It was first recorded over 3000 years ago according to the oracle bone script. The Black Death raged through Europe in the 14th century and wiped out at least one third of the total population. The smallpox epidemic in the 16th century completely destroyed the Aztec and Inca civilizations. The 1918 influenza pandemic claimed at least 20 million lives. The rapid spread of the COVID-19 has also caught people off guard. Fear, anger and agitation from a few have brewed irrationality. People attacked each other with accusations and even racism insults.

    As the world becomes more aware of the importance of vaccines, some countries have resorted to conspiracy theories and turned their backs on international cooperation. Vaccines are scrambled, hoarded and bought out. Narrow-mindedness and self-interest dominated their handling of the pandemic. As the number of confirmed cases increases and the death toll grows, people around the world are gripped by despair: is this pandemic invincible?

    A similar scenario in the 1960s might shade some lights on the current challenge. Despite the ongoing Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union joined forces to fight against smallpox. After years of hard work, the global community succeeded in providing abundant vaccines that ultimately eradicated the virus. An epic victory for humanity has been won. The course of history tells us that differences among nations are not scary, be it ethnicity or ideology. What's really frightening is that imaginary enemies are created by scare, which leads to the lost of critical opportunities and the heavy cost of people's lives.

    The encouraging news is that China, Norway and most countries in the world have been acting with the firm conviction that vaccines must be developed in cooperation and that its fair distribution must be ensured, because "no one is safe until everyone is safe". Norway is a pioneer in tackling global public health challenges. It advocated the establishment of CEPI in 2017, plays a leading role in Gavi, and is the founding member and major sponsor of COVAX. As of today, Norway has contributed billions of Norwegian kroner in the international fight against Covid-19. China, for its part, published the DNA sequences of the virus as soon as possible and was among the first to publish clinical test datas of its vaccines. China took the initiave and shared with the world its roadmap for the vaccine development and is the first country in the world to promise an offer of vaccines as a global public good for developing countries. After the vaccines came on the market, China quickly announced that 10 million doses would be provided to COVAX. So far, China has donated or is donating COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 developing countries and is exporting vaccines to more than 40 countries. China has also collaborated with CEPI and established a joint working group for the development of vaccines and a committee for technological collaboration. With CEPI's Shanghai office opened during the pandemic, the cooperation of both sides in vaccine development and epidemiological research is further strengthened. The vaccine from a Chinese company is now on CEPI's candidate list. China and Norway have envisioned and acted with the same goal of ensuring a fair and equal distribution of vaccines globally. We are happy to see that more countries are joining in.

    Never before has the human destiny been so closely interrelated as now in this globalized world. Things happening whereever on the planet will affect each and every one of us. Keeping order in one's own house is by no means a guarantee for lasting safety. Shortsighted views will only cost more lives and lead to a greater loss for the humanity.

    No one can predict how the next crisis will unfold, be it climate change, conflict and war, or another epidemic. What our foreign ministers have emphasized, "not to leave anyone behind", stands for not giving up the weak or subjugate to power politics. It is also a call for justice and righteousness and to build a community with a shared future for mankind. We should all remain steadfast to such positions after this pandemic. "There is no principle or consideration more important than putting people and their lives first." These are precisely the common values that China and Norway share.

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