Vaccine Diplomacy: How Should Africa be Vaccinated? Part II
The international aid organization Oxfam reports that with today’s development, 9 out of 10 people in poor countries will miss the coronary vaccination in 2021 and may have to wait as long as 2023 to be vaccinated. This is happening while richer countries, such as Canada, have secured so many doses that they can vaccinate their population almost three to five times.
5: Rivalry of great power – EU, USA, China and Russia
According to payhelpcenter.com, it is clear that Africa will probably be the last continent to achieve full vaccine coverage. However, this does not mean that Africa is not trying to respond to this enormous challenge.
In the back room of the international scene, there is a game going on within vaccine diplomacy. Some external actors would like to offer vaccines to African countries precisely to help them out of the crisis, but it is also about securing political influence, access to natural resources and market shares.
Since several of Africa’s traditional trade and development partners, such as the EU and the US, are largely preoccupied with dealing with their own problems with the pandemic, vaccine diplomacy has become an open game. This has given greater leeway to, for example, Russia and China.
It is possible that those who first bring vaccines to Africa will gain a competitive advantage over other countries that seek political influence and access to natural resources.
Russia was first out with a coronary vaccine, Sputnik V. It is both cheaper and easier to handle than several of the western competitors that Norway has bought. More than 50 countries have expressed an interest in buying, and Egypt is interested in producing the Russian vaccine. Because Russia can offer this vaccine, it opens up opportunities for the Russians to gain political influence in African capitals and establish good trade agreements. But Russia has struggled financially in recent years, and probably does not have enough economic strength to take advantage of the opportunities offered by vaccine diplomacy.
Here, on the other hand, China has much greater impact. The Chinese deliberately use vaccine diplomacy to repair their bad reputation as a result of the pandemic, but also to increase their influence. President Xi Jinping promised to prioritize Africa for its vaccines. With three different vaccines, an enormous production capacity and good control of the coronavirus at home, China has good opportunities to win goodwill on the African continent. This will strengthen China’s influence in African capitals, but for the time being the big vaccine agreements between the great powers and African countries are waiting to happen .
6: COVAX – a global solution
In 2020, a global initiative called COVAX appeared which aims at a safer and more equitable distribution of vaccines in the fight against the coronavirus.
COVAX is hired by WHO, the vaccine alliance GAVI and CEPI , and aims to accelerate the development and production of vaccines against the coronavirus and ensure equal and fair access for all member countries regardless of income level.
This means that poorer countries that on their own would not be able to afford many vaccines get vaccines for free because richer countries take on a larger share of the burden and pay more. COVAX is thus an important attempt at a fairer burden-sharing between rich and poor countries, and is an alternative to direct agreements between state and producer.
COVAX has a target of 2 billion doses in 2021, something that can vaccinate 20 percent of the population in 92 low- and middle-income countries.
Regional agreements are another option. For example, Norway gets its vaccines through an agreement negotiated by the EU on behalf of its member countries. In a similar agreement, the African Union has provided 670 million doses and is negotiating more. Together with COVAX, which has raised 1.1 billion doses, the stage is set for the first deliveries of vaccines during February.
7: The way forward
African countries are not powerless in the vaccine race, but the weak economic strength of many of the countries on the continent makes them largely dependent on such agreements as COVAX and AU are able to maintain and any goodwill from other countries willing to sell their vaccines cheap.
Rich countries’ vaccine nationalism does not help, and the same goes for unforeseen problems that arise.
Doses on paper are unfortunately not the same as doses seen in the arms. A potential cut is production and delivery difficulties that we have seen here in the West, and that constantly new mutations of the coronavirus threaten the effectiveness of the vaccines .
It is also possible that the coronary pandemic will develop into an ” endemic “. This means that the virus will continue to mutate and return in ever new waves such as the common flu if we are not able to vaccinate enough people across the globe.
The consequences for people’s lives, health and finances have been enormous and new major outbreaks are of no interest. Therefore, in rich countries it is in their interest to ensure a fairer distribution where all countries get enough vaccines for their populations as quickly as possible.