Opinion | The Era of Vaccine Diplomacy Is Here

Poor countries will remember who came to their assistance, and when. Moscow and Beijing saw an opportunity early on, sending masks and pr...


Poor countries will remember who came to their assistance, and when. Moscow and Beijing saw an opportunity early on, sending masks and protective gear to hard-hit countries last spring. Now, with low- and middle-income countries clamoring for vaccines, countries from Serbia and Algeria to Brazil and Egypt are getting doses from China and Russia. Serbia, in fact, is ahead of most countries in the European Union in the percentage of its population that has been vaccinated, in part because it’s one of the few countries where both Russian and Chinese vaccines are already available.

China has made sharing its homegrown vaccines a centerpiece of its “Belt and Road Initiative,” a global strategy to invest in more than 70 countries and international organizations. Beijing’s vaccine diplomacy has had its glitches, most notably the lack of verified information about the efficacy of its vaccines, but for many poor countries, China’s vaccines are far better than nothing. Recently, for example, China announced it would donate 300,000 doses to Egypt.

Russia claims it has orders for its Sputnik V vaccine from about 20 countries — including America’s southern neighbor, Mexico, which has contracted to receive 7.4 million doses between February and April. After a bout of Covid-19 in late January, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico reported that he had received a warm phone call from President Vladimir Putin of Russia and that he had invited Mr. Putin to visit Mexico. At about the same time, the president and vice president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, both received their first jabs of Sputnik V.

India, among the world’s largest producers of generic medicines, has also moved to develop its own vaccines and to ship them abroad, in part as a counter to China’s outreach. Though India has a population of more than 1.3 billion, it has already sent 3.2 million free doses to neighboring countries and has contracted with a host of governments around the world to supply vaccines. One reason India can do this is that it’s producing more vaccines than it can currently distribute domestically. The U.A.E., which is vaccinating its residents faster than any country except Israel, has also begun donating Chinese-made Sinopharm to countries where it has strategic or commercial interests.

Vaccine diplomacy has drawbacks. Dr. Ghebreyesus of the W.H.O. has complained that too many countries and vaccine manufacturers are focused on making bilateral or selective deals, which pushes the poorest countries to the side. That is the advantage of the W.H.O.’s Covax initiative, and the Biden administration has made a good start in supporting it.

President Biden has assured Americans that most will be vaccinated by the end of summer. He should also assure them that it is very much in their interest, for reasons of morality, common sense and national interest, to be at the forefront of the global war against that vicious little spiked blob.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Opinion | The Era of Vaccine Diplomacy Is Here
Opinion | The Era of Vaccine Diplomacy Is Here
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