China has helped ensure global vaccine equity during the Covid-19 pandemic and can be a major contributor to meeting health challenges now and in the future, a top health executive has said. Seth Berkley, CEO of global vaccine alliance Gavi, said donors such as China and manufacturers like Chinese firms Sinovac and Sinopharm made it possible for the Covax Facility to ship more than 1.5 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to 146 countries and territories. Gavi co-led the facility, which buys and delivers vaccines around the world. Berkley said China could continue to help ensure children everywhere had access to basic immunisation and healthcare. “China can play a major role in this work, continuing to contribute financing, technical assistance, and help with vaccine supply … like the new HPV vaccines under way,” he said. In November, the World Health Organization approved China’s first domestically developed HPV vaccine Cecolin , by Xiamen Innovax Biotech for procurement and supply to low-income countries. China has also benefited from Gavi. In 2002, when China rolled out free hepatitis B shots for children up to the age of five, Gavi shouldered half the cost, helping to boost the immunisation rate for the first dose at birth from 64 per cent to over 90 per cent in most areas. Gavi also supported distribution of a Japanese encephalitis vaccine by the Chengdu Institute of Biological Products to more than 400 million children in 12 countries. In 2015, China became a Gavi donor, starting with a pledge of US$5 million for Gavi’s core programmes, followed by another US$20 million in 2020. “[China is] increasingly stepping up into our role, funding our work in supporting vaccinations in the Global South,” Berkley said. China pledged US$100 million to help fund Covax’s global initiative to ensure 92 low-income countries’ access to Covid-19 vaccines, with deals with Chinese manufacturers to supply the doses. “Almost 228 million doses of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines reached 50 countries. These doses were particularly crucial in 2021 when the global vaccine supply was particularly tight,” Berkley said. In the 92 lower and lower-middle income countries Covax helped with Covid-19 vaccine supplies, 54 per cent of the population have had one dose and 47 per cent have had two doses. The global average is around 60 per cent, but there are 18 countries where the vaccination is still under 10 per cent. Berkley said that while vaccine production took place at record pace there were many barriers to continuing that supply. “That’s one of the reasons we had to diversify our supply so dramatically and where China also helped supply during that period when there were many blockades,” he said. Berkley said it was a challenge for vaccines to keep up with the coronavirus as it mutated and sublineages caused slightly different immune responses, but so far all the vaccines had been shown to protect against severe disease and death. “If it turned out that the virus mutated so much that [vaccines] no longer gave protection against severe disease and death, of course we would need new vaccines,” he said.