As President Joe Biden claimed to achieve a target of delivering 100 million shots of Coronavirus vaccine to Americans in his bid of “vaccine nationalism,” the concept of vaccine diplomacy is rising in parallel at a rapid rate, empowering influential countries to extend their influence on the smaller countries.
Less powerful countries are likely to remember the names that came to them in this time of need, making this concept even more meaningful.
One school of thought believes that donating vaccines is mostly on humanitarian grounds. However, the approach of the powerful countries, prominently China and Russia, to extend vaccines to other countries without putting their own house in order suggests otherwise.
Considering the Chinese ambitions, the USA is also trying to walk this path, as the Biden administration announced $4 billion to promote vaccination programs in various countries.
Not only this, but the USA is also empowering India to distribute its vaccine in the Asian countries so that the Chinese strategy can be tackled.
Which countries are doing vaccine diplomacy right now, and what are the hidden aims of this? Let’s see.
China and Russia: Leaders in Vaccine Diplomacy
Currently, China and Russia are leading the efforts of vaccine diplomacy by donating vaccines to scores of countries.
China has already donated its vaccine to at least 53 countries and exported it to another 27.
These countries include Lebanon, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Egypt, Pakistan, Hungary, and others.
This time, the Chinese inclination is primarily towards the poor African countries, where China is supposedly investing hugely, which experts believe is a “Debt-trap diplomacy” itself.
In parallel to China, Russia is also making grounds in vaccine diplomacy as its Sputnik V vaccine gets global traction amid the rising coronavirus variants.
The donation of Russian vaccines to Syria with a condition to set a detained Israeli woman free from Syria is a classic example of vaccine diplomacy. Countries are now using technological influence to achieve their ends.
Russia is also eyeing to open up vaccine production in Europe to fend off tensions with its European Union allies.
This vaccine diplomacy has become even more significant after the loss of Trump in the presidential election, as he was supposedly enjoying good relations with Russia.
Biden is harsher on Russia, as he even called Russian President Vladimir Putin a killer, an allegation that Russia opposed vehemently.
Not only this, but the Biden administration has also raised questions on Chinese designs of democracy, human rights, trade, and cybersecurity as an Antony Blinken led-US diplomatic team recently met with Chinese officials.
China has already denied these allegations in full swing, which symbolizes the further deterioration of Sino-US relations in the foreseeable future.
This US tussle with both Russia and China are making the countries even closer in vaccine diplomacy.
Vaccine Diplomacy and the USA: Changing US Ambitions
Donald Trump, who once tried to secure more of the Pfizer vaccines for the United States after declining them earlier, was characterized as a nationalist by the global leaders.
However, Biden is trying to extend the US influence in the world with vaccine diplomacy just like China and Russia.
Recently, the USA pledged with India, Australia, and Japan in QUAD for better vaccine cooperation globally, particularly in Asia.
It is pertinent to note here that China has a strong influence on most Asian countries, so targeting those countries is not a surprising approach from the USA.
While it is true that the World Health Organization (WHO) is encouraging vaccine distribution in the world, the political stakes of the countries can make the situation worse.
To counter this diplomacy, Biden has also announced $4 billion in aid for vaccine programs worldwide.
Vaccine Diplomacy: A Trick to Conquer Africa
The way new variants of coronavirus are emerging in the world every passing day, it seems that the coronavirus is nowhere near ending right now.
It is also a reality that no country is safe until all the countries are safe in this pandemic, so global vaccination is also good on moral grounds.
However, Chinese ambitions, primarily in Africa, suggest that China has a lot to gain in the continent with its vaccine diplomacy efforts.
Africa has a rapidly growing population, and according to some estimates, the African population could double by 2050. It will give China a big consumer market for its products in the continent. Not only this, but Africa is also at the central part of Chinese Belt and Road ambitions. So, China has nothing to lose in the continent.
The developing countries have no other choice other than to acquire these vaccines to bring normality to their countries.
COVID-Ignorant Countries: Are they Digging Their Own Grave?
However, there are some countries that are denying vaccines, mostly from ignorance of the coronavirus. On the top of the list remains Tanzania, where the late COVID-19 skeptical president kept on rejecting global offers of vaccination.
This has caused suffering in the country to a great extent, as the president himself died of COVID. It is also a lesson for the next Tanzanian government, as well as other countries that are depending on unproven tactics to get rid of the virus.
The hidden ambitions of the world powers behind vaccination are certainly a sign of worry for the masses. Not only this, but the efficacy of the Chinese vaccine is also questionable, and the poor countries cannot do much research before approving these vaccines.
This is also a reality that no country can be stopped from donating its vaccine, considering the scale on which coronavirus is causing devastation in the world right now.
Gone are the days of traditional hard power when countries used to dominate others based on military power. In these times, soft power matters, and vaccine diplomacy seems to be an important element in this regard.