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VACCINE DIPLOMACY


We must not tolerate a world in which a child dies from a disease that can be easily prevented with a low cost vaccine.”


Since the onset of the pandemic in December 2019, scientists and medical professionals across the globe had started working on developing vaccines to immunize people and curb the spread of the disease.

The vaccine development has shown favourable results in some countries namely, Sputnik V developed in Russia, Pfizer and BioNTech partnered vaccine, and the Moderna vaccine of U.S., Covaxin, an indigenously developed vaccine in India, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute in Pune, India. After being approved by W.H.O, and the start of the vaccination drives, the global community has witnessed a disparity in the supply of vaccines. This has unveiled the large inequalities existing in health services across the world.

Countries facing economic crisis, political instability, conflicts, and weak health infrastructure are finding it hard to immunize their populations. These nations are now left at the mercy of richer and resourceful governments as the supply now remains in the hands of wealthier countries. W.H.O chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that such disparity could soon become a "catastrophic moral failure." With the rising inequality of Covid-19 vaccine supply, the manufacturing countries have come forward to aid the disadvantaged nations. This move by these countries is being viewed as a tool to strengthen their diplomatic relations and regional ties.


India, one of the largest vaccines producing nations, was among the firsts to engage in "vaccine diplomacy" assisting countries like Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Maldives, Brazil, Myanmar, Seychelles with vaccine supplies. The Israeli government has reportedly agreed to pay Russia to send the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to the Syrian government as part of a prisoner exchange deal.

Vaccine diplomacy has also seen efforts to undermine trust in the intentions and efficacy of rival powers. Russia and China are being accused by the West of spreading misinformation and undermining the trust in others' vaccines and obligating countries with aspirations of better future trade deals.


With growing inequalities in access to supplies, vaccines have become a diplomatic tool for the countries to enhance power and status. But with countries like India, US, China, which have a high domestic vaccine demand to cater to, and the world witnessing the second wave of covid-19, vaccine inequality is expected to rise. In such a case, it is essential to increase the pace of immunization for all the countries to collaborate and fight the pandemic together irrespective of any biases.


BY:

Yashodhar Jain

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