Last month, China began inoculating foreigners living in the country with Covid-19 vaccines, on a voluntary basis. A number of cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai have rolled out the vaccination programme aimed at providing equitable access to the commodities.
Guangzhou, the capital of the coastal Guangdong Province, is home to Asia's largest African migrant population, who are in China for business and study opportunities. The drive runs alongside a similar initiative to promote vaccination on Chinese universities.
On-campus Covid-19 vaccination is particularly important since China is now home to over 500, 000 students. Many of the students have since finished their studies and are preparing to return to their home countries where a Covid-19 jab would be costly to get, especially if one is not among the high risk groups.
Africa, which currently lags behind in vaccination against the pandemic is sending more students to China than to any other country, for basic and higher studies.
From just 2000 students in the year 2003, over 81,000 African students were enrolled in Chinese academic institutions, according to University World News, by 2020. The dramatic rise in the number of African students in China is a function of many factors including targeted Chinese government scholarships, affordability as well as soaring quality of Chinese education system.
Students who received the jab at my University were for instance upbeat about the experience, expressing confidence in the Chinese vaccine and lauding the move by the government to extend the inoculation coverage free of charge.
Upon vaccination, African students, like other groups currently studying in China, will have the opportunity to return home knowing that they are not only less susceptible to the Covid-19 disease but also less of a risk to the communities they will join.
The decision to give foreign nationals the jab is a continuation of support that the Chinese government has extended to foreigners since the outbreak of the global health crisis.
Within campuses, for instance, state and varsity authorities moved in to provide essential support to students. Food, medicines, protective clothing, and even counselling services were made available to the students. There were also no risks of deportation upon expiry of their visas, as was experienced by African students studying in the United States during the pandemic.
By actively sending more vaccines to other countries than those administered at home, while also giving foreigners equal inoculation opportunities with citizens, China is leading the way in the use of medical supplies to chart a progressive and more humane path towards global recovery from the pandemic.
Vaccine equity is not only an affirmation of human rights; it promises the most sustainable and collaborative way out of the Covid-19 crisis. Hoarding of the commodities continues to see more people getting infected and dying around the world, when those lives could have been saved.
As long as some territories are under the spell of the virus, global recovery will only remain a mirage. Around the world, 650 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. Africa trails the pack with only 23.6 million doses given in the continent by mid-March.
On the other hand, the United States had dispensed over 137 million doses by the end of March 2021. For a continent that is home to 16.72 percent of the global population, the rate of vaccination is disappointingly low.
Finally, vaccine nationalism is severely eroding trust and goodwill; key elements that facilitate cooperation in international affairs. Rich countries should look beyond their borders when searching for sustainable solutions to international afflictions such as the global health crisis.
Similarly, countries that play a constructive role in widening access to vaccines should be encouraged, and not frowned upon.