A security worker wears a face mask, a surgical gown, and rubber gloves. Anyone entering this part of the warehouse is required to either complete two weeks of quarantine or wear a head-to-toe protective suit.
In the coming months, China will send hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines to countries that have conducted last-stage trials for their leading candidates. Chinese leaders have also promised a growing list of priority developing countries to obtain their successful vaccines.
Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, said vaccines could be used by Beijing “as a foreign policy tool to enhance soft power and demonstrate international influence.”
Vaccine diplomacy in Beijing, Huang He said, he could give her another chance.
In China, there are currently five coronavirus candidates from four companies that have reached stage 3 clinical trials, which is the last and most important step in testing before seeking regulatory approval.
After the Coronavirus has largely been wiped out within its borders, Chinese drugmakers have had to search abroad for places to test the effectiveness of their vaccines. Together, they launched a third phase of trials in at least 16 countries.
In return, many host countries promise early access to successful vaccines – and in some cases, the technical know-how to manufacture them locally.
“China not only has the political will (for vaccine diplomacy), but it also has a strong capacity to achieve this,” Huang said.
Because China has contained the virus to a large extent, there is no urgent need to vaccinate every single member of its 1.4 billion people. “This gives it this leverage … to make deals with countries that need vaccines,” he said.
‘Healthy Silk Road’
“Until now, we have not heard from the United States saying or suggesting that it will allocate a percentage of its vaccine to support poor countries. This puts China in a better position to use the vaccine to serve its foreign policy goals,” Huang said.
In October, China joined a global initiative supported by the World Health Organization to ensure the rapid and equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines to rich and poor countries alike.
The project, known as COVAX, is designed to dissuade governments from stocking up on coronavirus vaccines and focus instead on vaccinating vulnerable groups in each country. But the United States was a pariah, In part, that’s because President Donald Trump did not want to work with the WHO, leaving the global public health leadership void for China to fill.
From the start, Chinese leaders have repeatedly emphasized that Chinese vaccines are for sharing, especially with the developing world.
In a video summit with African leaders in June, Xi pledged that “once the development and deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine in China is completed, African countries will be among the first to benefit.”
In August, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing would give priority access to Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Other countries that Chinese officials have promised are Afghanistan and Malaysia.
Then there is the issue of effectiveness. Last month, Pfizer and Moderna announced that preliminary results showed their vaccines were more than 90% effective, while another candidate produced by the University of Oxford in conjunction with AstraZeneca had an average effectiveness of 70%. So far, none of the Chinese vaccine candidates has announced any preliminary results of the effectiveness, although company executives have repeatedly emphasized their safety, and insisted that no serious negative effects have been observed on the volunteers who were vaccinated.
Compared to Pfizer and Moderna, Chinese vaccines have a crucial advantage – most of them do not require freezing temperatures for storage, which makes transportation and distribution much easier, especially in developing countries that lack cold storage capabilities.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use pieces of a genetic material called messenger RNA (mRNA) to stimulate the body to make artificial pieces of the coronavirus and stimulate the immune response – a new technology not used in current vaccines.
However, the required temperatures must be maintained throughout all stages of transportation, from leaving the production facility to airport storage and finally global distribution.
Cainiao, the logistics arm of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, will help distribute the Chinese vaccines once it is given the green light. It says its comprehensive climate control infrastructure is ready and ready.
Cainiao is also partnering with Ethiopian Airlines, which will send Chinese vaccines to the Middle East and then Africa. Since the epidemic, the airline has transported more than 3,000 tons of medical supplies from Shenzhen to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
But Cainiao is also looking to add more avenues for greater global reach, according to its CEO, Wan Lin.
“Of course, we are not completely sure of the exact demand for that, but we are definitely building our capacity to prepare for that,” said Wan.
CNN’s Emma Reynolds contributed to writing this story.