If China and Russia are conducting vaccine diplomacy out of a cynical ploy to win international sympathy, well, the world is in dire need of such cynicism
If China and Russia provide inoculation aid to developing countries, it’s called vaccine diplomacy. If Western countries do it, it’s humanitarianism. Fine, you say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to. Except Western countries aren’t conducting much humanitarian aid, rather the opposite.
These range from hoarding surplus vaccines, blocking shipments to other countries and orders from them, and stymieing countries such as India and Africa to bypass intellectual property regimes to develop Covid diagnostic kits and cheap vaccines.
It’s hardly surprising that European Council President Charles Michel complains: “We should not let ourselves be misled by China and Russia, both regimes with less desirable values than ours, as they organise highly limited but widely publicised operations to supply vaccines to others.”
No one thinks China or Russia is doing it out of pure goodness; does any country ever? But what they have done has exposed Western inadequacy, malfeasance and hypocrisy.
The American government has ordered another 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that will gain an unseemly US surplus of doses while the rest of the world is struggling with serious shortages; in the case of large swathes of Africa, almost complete unavailability.
Canada has become the first and only developed country to take vaccines from Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax), a global initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines for developing countries led by international groups such as Unicef and the World Health Organization.
Canada, the US and Britain have ganged up to undermine proposals led by South Africa and India for a special one-off waiver that would allow countries to bypass certain protections on intellectual property with the World Trade Organization. This would have allowed developing and low-income countries to develop and manufacture diagnostic tests, ventilators and drugs, including vaccines.
To be fair, Western countries aren’t just doing it to poor nations; they are doing it to each other. From Donald Trump to Joe Biden, Washington has made it clear it won’t be sharing vaccines with next-door neighbours Mexico and Canada, despite repeated pleadings from both. Italy has blocked shipments to Australia, apparently with the full support of the European Union.
Meanwhile, China has been providing free vaccines to 69 countries and commercially exporting them to 28 others. But wait, haven’t the US, India, Australia and Japan just pledged to deliver a billion vaccine doses throughout Asia-Pacific by the end of 2022? A billion! Let’s wait and see.
By Alex Lo at https://amp.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3125404/wests-sicken-thy-neighbour-fight-over-vaccine-access