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Quantum Leap Newsletter – Vaccine Diplomacy
By Faisal Khan • Issue #20 • View online
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SMALL TALK: Vaccines are being used as a bargaining chip in global diplomacy
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Recognizing the fact, that no one is safe till everybody is vaccinated globally is the first step towards achieving any kind of normalcy. However, stating the intent is one thing, and taking bold political actions to accomplish equitable vaccination to fight combat COVID-19 is another. So far, we have seen that the eruption of “vaccine nationalism”, that has led to just a handful of countries hogging the majority of the vaccines — just 10 countries account for 75% of all Covid-19 vaccination so far. More than 130 countries have not administered a single dose.
As if this not enough of a problem, another demon has surfaced — this time in the shape of “vaccine diplomacy.” According to news reports, confirmed by an Israeli source, Russia mediated a deal in which an Israeli woman was exchanged for two Syrian shepherds. The deal involved Israel paying Russia $1.2m to send Sputnik V jabs to Syria.
This incident has sparked a row considering Israel’s unwillingness to provide the millions of Palestinians who live under its control with significant doses when it has quietly agreed to secure potentially hundreds of thousands for an enemy state. I guess national interest comes way above any sentiment of humanity. However, the controversy doesn’t end there — another report suggests that Israel may also be considering using vaccines as a tool to improve relations with rival Arab countries.
Rich nations must either help developing countries fight Covid or live in a fortress.
~ Mohamed El-Erian, Former Deputy Director, IMF
What’s astonishing is the fact that this is coming from a country that has the highest percentage of its population vaccinated. Apparently, being safe doesn’t make you feel any more sympathetic towards the less fortunate. And it’s not just Israel, richer vaccine-producing nations like China and Russia are playing their own game of chess on the political front. Both countries are busy distributing their homegrown vaccines to various countries of the world to gain political influence and leverage.
China has grown its influence and standing in the developing world, both directly, by providing free face masks to reduce virus transmission and indirectly, by showing that its governance model is more effective than western countries’ in overcoming unanticipated adversity. Although the secrecy around its actions remains questionable.
It has also widely distributed its COVID-19 vaccines in the Middle East and adjoining countries. Russia, on the other hand, recently announced that the African Union had been offered 300m doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, with funding for countries that need it — via the Africa Medical Supplies Platform.
The G-7 effectiveness on this vaccine initiative has been less than supportive. They need to come through on their previous promises which entailed making financial aid available to developing countries or donating to them developed countries’ anticipated and already-secured excess doses. The Covid-19 virus has already exposed the existing cracks and inequalities in our political and health systems.
Commoners have yet again been at the receiving end of all this, where millions of lives and livelihoods have been affected — with the most vulnerable and marginalized suffering the most. This is on top of human rights abuses we have seen under the pretext of COVID-19, as many governments attacked free speech and cracked down on dissent. A utopian future remains a far-fetched dream.
Me:Vaccines are about power and money.