Vaccine Diplomacy: How Should Africa be Vaccinated? Part I

Vaccine Diplomacy: How Should Africa be Vaccinated? Part I

The largest vaccination campaign of all time has been launched in the fight against the coronavirus. While rich, western countries have hoarded vaccine cans, the African countries are at the back of the queue. But will it actually be possible to punish rich countries if they prioritize themselves over others?

  • What is vaccine diplomacy?
  • How could a more equitable distribution of vaccines be ensured?
  • What can Russia and China gain from vaccinating Africa?
  • What is the consequence if we do not get Africa vaccinated early enough?

“The world is on the brink of catastrophic moral failure, and the price will be paid with life and livelihoods in the poorest countries, ” warned Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO).

In a race between countries to obtain enough vaccines, rich countries have secured the majority of the doses that will be delivered in 2021. Through their own agreements with vaccine manufacturers, this race, which prevents a fairer distribution of vaccines, is the main problem in so-called vaccine diplomacy .

2: Vaccine diplomacy

Diplomacy is what a state does to promote its own interests vis-à-vis other countries, without using force. Vaccine diplomacy is simply a matter of developing, delivering and using vaccines.

Countries use the development and delivery of vaccines to strengthen their relationship with other countries. Diplomatic relations may be characterized by competition and conflict, as between the United States and China, or more characterized by friendship and cooperation as between Norway and Sweden. Vaccine diplomacy also involves vaccination work for various international organizations, such as the WHO.

Today’s vaccine diplomacy is first and foremost about fighting the coronavirus, but as the WHO chief pointed out, it does not appear that the countries of the world are able to achieve a fair distribution of vaccines.

According to the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutierres, this is a major problem, and he recently stated that rich countries will not be safe when their own populations are vaccinated, but only when the entire world’s population has achieved herd immunity.

3: Africa and the «inequality virus»

According to, the number of cases of infection in Africa is very small compared to North America and Europe as shown in the figure below. The exception is South Africa, which is now in the middle of an aggressive second wave. But the pandemic has hit African states’ economies as hard as anywhere else in the world.

The year 2020 was the first time since the mid-1990s that sub-Saharan Africa experienced negative economic growth , the so-called recession. Some countries did well due to good economies with many legs to stand on, while for example oil- and tourist-dependent states got it much heavier.

The consequence is that many people have lost their livelihoods and been pushed into poverty, and that poor and vulnerable states have been weakened.

The coronavirus does not blindly affect. It makes a difference between rich and poor, and has been called the ” inequality virus ” by many. Weak individuals and groups are hit harder than those with strong resources, just like the consequences of climate change. The virus slows down and reverses economic growth, thus creating more poverty and social injustice in the world. That is why it is so important to get rid of the virus as soon as possible so that the economic wheels can start rolling again.

In Norway, we have good opportunities to recover from the crisis since we have a robust economy, a good safety net with well-developed social schemes, political stability and not least a large monetary fund. In addition, through its agreement with the EU, Norway has ensured good access to vaccines and will be able to achieve herd immunity during 2021. In many African countries the situation is quite different, and many of the poorest risk falling behind both countries one and two years in other countries. the vaccination queue. Thus, they will be far behind richer countries.

The pandemic is a crisis that spreads to others and it means that the consequences for people in countries without a good safety net will be much greater. This disturbing development, which reinforces the differences between rich and poor countries, has led many to shout against rich countries’ ” vaccine nationalism “.

4: The threat from vaccine nationalism – history repeats itself

By vaccine nationalism we mean that one country prioritises its own access to vaccines over all other countries.

The President of South Africa, Ramaphosa, recently blamed rich countries in the world for pursuing vaccine nationalism by first and foremost saving himself by hoarding vaccines for his own people. Historically, this is not something new. For example, we can go back to 2009 when the world was hit by the swine flu . Then a vaccine was developed in a hurry and rich countries hoarded all of the available doses and future production while poorer developing countries could only stand and watch.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin