The ‘vaccine nationalism’ policy stance by major vaccine producers of the world has caused a serious dent in the global solidarity of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The negotiation by high-income countries with vaccine producing companies for large advance orders has crowded out poor countries in the process. Supply limitations have largely held back the Covax program, where middle and low-income countries are supposed to receive 2 billion vaccine doses. If countries with many cases lag in obtaining vaccines, the disease is likely to continue disrupting the global supply chains and the global economy.
- By developing its global image through vaccine diplomacy particularly to low income countries, China has emerged as the world’s largest exporter of vaccines. Coupled with no urgency in the COVID-19 situation at home, China has been providing vaccines to Belt and Road initiative countries (“Health Silk Road”).
- India tried to compete with China in vaccine diplomacy but has recently halted the vaccine exports to the Covax program. This is to prioritize local vaccinations amid an accelerating second wave of infections.
- With AstraZeneca falling short of the expected deliveries to the EU, European Commission has also recently toughened the exports controls on vaccine doses.
- The U.S. has largely followed a domestic focused stance. Although there are no regulations against exporting vaccines made in the U.S., companies are stipulated to satisfy the contractual requirements with the U.S. first before exporting.
By Ammu GEORGE