Chinese company donates 50k COVID vaccines to CONMEBOL ahead of Copa America

A Chinese pharmaceutical company will donate 50,000 doses of their COVID-19 vaccine for national teams to use ahead of the Copa America, CONMEBOL announced on Tuesday.

The deal is part of an agreement between CONMEBOL and Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac.

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"It is the best news that the South American football family can receive," CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said. "I appreciate this great gesture of solidarity and support from the Sinovac company, which understood that football is a fundamental activity for the economy, culture and physical and mental health of South Americans.

"This is a huge step forward in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic, but by no means does it mean that we are letting our guard down. We will maintain our responsible work, which allowed us to conclude our tournaments smoothly and without altering the formats."

The vaccines will also be used for other CONMEBOL competitions.

CONMEBOL highlighted the importance of the agreement as it becomes the first confederation in the world to have "arranged to have immunisers to start a massive vaccination process."

The announcement comes three days after China's top disease control official, in a rare acknowledgement, said current vaccines in the country offer low protection against the coronavirus and mixing them is among strategies being considered to boost their effectiveness.

China has distributed hundreds of millions of doses of domestically made vaccines abroad and is relying on them for its own mass immunization campaign.

But the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said at a conference Saturday their efficacy rates needed improving.

"We will solve the issue that current vaccines don't have very high protection rates," Gao said in a presentation on Chinese COVID-19 vaccines and immunization strategies at a conference in the southwestern city of Chengdu. "It's now under consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines for the immunization process."

The Copa America will be played June 13-July 10 in Argentina and Colombia.

A total of 10 South American nations will compete. There are no invited teams in the tournament with Qatar and Australia having pulled out due to scheduling conflicts.

The opening game will be played in Buenos Aires on June 13 with Argentina taking on Chile.

Brazil will begin their title defence against Venezuela in Medellin, Colombia, one day later.

The final will be played in Barranquilla, Colombia, on July 10.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.