Copy of Virus_Outbreak_Pediatric_Vaccines_54188--4e773~1-1671750774405
Deborah Sampson, left, a nurse at a University of Washington Medical Center clinic in Seattle, gives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shot to a 20-month-old child, June 21, 2022, in Seattle. The U.S. on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022 open doses of the updated COVID-19 vaccines for most children younger than age 5. The Food and Drug Administration's decision aims to better protect the littlest kids from severe COVID-19 at a time when children’s hospitals already are packed with tots suffering a variety of other respiratory illnesses, too. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, file) Image Credit: AP

Washington: The US is prepared to help China with vaccines to help address its Covid-19 outbreak, but the government in Beijing hasn’t asked for assistance so far, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“We want to see China get this outbreak under control,” Blinken told a press conference. He said the US is worried about the rise of new coronavirus variants and said China’s outbreak has “clear implications for the global economy because of China being shut down on multiple levels.”

Explosion in cases

After trying to eliminate Covid-19 for three years, China is now letting it circulate widely. The move has resulted in an explosion in cases and reports of uncounted coronavirus deaths are mounting.

One problem is that many older Chinese people aren’t vaccinated, while another is that China still hasn’t approved any foreign vaccines including mRNA-based options from BioNTech or Moderna, for its own population.

Blinken did not respond to questions about the validity of Beijing’s official tally of casualties in the current outbreak, but stressed the importance of transparency.

The Chinese embassy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about Blinken’s remarks.

Making testing, treatment available

It’s important “for all countries, including China, to focus on people getting vaccinated, making testing and treatment available, and importantly, sharing information with the world about what they’re experiencing,” Blinken said. “Again, because it has implications not just for China, but for the entire world.”

During the same press conference, Blinken touted US efforts to increase Covid-19 vaccination worldwide and to help countries prepare for future pandemics.

Containing outbreak in world’s interest

On Tuesday, the United States offered to share vaccines with China to stem soaring Covid cases, saying containing the outbreak was in the interest of the world.

It is unlikely that China would accept the offer from the United States, its frequent adversary, after Beijing invested heavily in Covid diplomacy that included shipping its homegrown vaccines around the world.

“It’s important that all countries focus on getting people vaccinated and making testing and treatment easily available,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“The US is the largest donor of Covid-19 vaccines around the world. We’re prepared to continue to support people around the world, including in China, with this and other Covid-related health support,” Price said.

“This is profoundly in the interests of the rest of the world. Our Covid-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and we have provided them to countries around the world, regardless or in spite of any political disagreements.”

Human, economic costs

Price said that the caseload in China, the world’s second largest economy, had both human and economic costs.

“It’s important not only for the PRC, but also for the continued economic recovery of the international community that the PRC is in a position to get this outbreak under control,” he said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

China, where Covid-19 was first detected three years ago, until recently attempted a policy of zero cases that included stringent lockdowns.

The communist leadership abruptly reversed course after rare public protests but much of the population remains unvaccinated, especially the elderly.

Crematorium workers in China told AFP that they are struggling to keep up with a surge in deaths.

China’s homegrown Sinopharm vaccine has an efficacy rate of 79 percent against symptoms and hospitalization after two doses, the World Health Organization said in June, compared with around 95 percent for US-made Moderna and Pfizer.