Why doesn't Nepal join India or China

Vaccination dosesChina, Russia, India - the vaccine diplomats

China has lost the race to develop an effective vaccine. When it comes to distributing its vaccines, however, the People's Republic is much more active than Europe and the USA. China exports its vaccines to 27 countries, according to the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua. 53 countries receive batches free of charge, including Belarus, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In addition to China, Russia and India also export their vaccines to financially weaker regions - and thus to countries that otherwise could not achieve herd immunity until 2023. Because the majority of the vaccine doses expected to be available this year - 70 percent and thus around 4.2 billion doses - will go to rich industrialized countries. The Covax vaccination initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) wants to provide up to two billion doses to poorer countries by the end of the year, but the vaccination campaign is still running slowly.

The vaccine candidates from Beijing and Moscow are already available and are often easier to store than the more sensitive competing products. According to the Chinese media, Beijing has already exported 46 million cans - almost as many as the People's Republic itself has inoculated. Officials from Russia have reported that more than 50 countries - including mainly countries in Asia and Latin America - have ordered 1.2 billion doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. The vaccine is not yet approved in the EU.

Serbia ahead in vaccination thanks to China and Russia

With Hungary and Serbia, two European countries are also on the customer list. Around 1.5 million doses of vaccine in Serbia come from Sinopharm, and in mid-February, 50,000 doses of Sputnik V also reached the Balkans. In a European comparison, Serbia is one of the countries that vaccinate its population the fastest, just behind Great Britain.

Hungary also wants to be faster than the EU and has ordered five million Sinopharm cans in addition to two million Sputnik V. At the end of January, Budapest became the first and so far only EU country to approve the Chinese vaccine - without prior approval from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). For observers, the move is seen as a clear rejection of the EU's vaccine policy and as grist to the mill for the previous criticism of Brussels.

Despite their great availability, skepticism towards the Chinese and Russian vaccines has prevailed in many Western countries. While there are no reliable data on the effectiveness and the individual test phases for the Chinese vaccines - so far the effectiveness of the vaccines has been estimated at between 60 and 80 percent - at Sputnik V, above all, the actual production capacity compared to the promised delivery quantities is in doubt. For the recipient countries, however, there is almost no alternative to vaccines.

The political dimension of vaccine diplomacy

The Chinese state media in particular emphasize the caring character behind the batches sent. But neither China nor Russia act out of pure charity. Because the number of paying customers outweighs the recipients of donations.

In the long term, however, vaccine relationships could also have an impact on political and economic relationships. The USA, for example, is critical of the vaccine deliveries to Latin America - a region that is of particular interest to them because of its oil and copper deposits. Beijing had also promised the Latin American and Caribbean countries billions in loans to finance the purchase of vaccine doses. Countries that participate in tests for Chinese vaccines also receive discounted conditions. In many African countries, the vaccine deliveries are also likely to strengthen the relationships that China has already forged in the course of infrastructure projects along the new Silk Road.

Russia, on the other hand, uses its vaccine supplies to keep existing allies. The batches donated to eastern Ukraine have helped to deepen the political rifts in the country and to feed the disappointment with the EU's vaccination campaign. In the Levant, the Kremlin recently played its influence as Syria's ally and brokered an exchange of prisoners between the Assad regime and Israel - with the addition of a vaccine deal. Israel agreed to send around 50,000 cans for around $ 1.2 million to Damascus.

India competes with China

Since the beginning of 2021 the circle of vaccine diplomats has another member with India. Although the self-proclaimed “pharmacy of the world” lags behind the delivery quantities from China and Russia, India repeatedly supplies precisely those neighboring countries that are actually waiting for batches from Beijing. The first vaccination campaigns have already started in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Myanmar is also an example of the region: Around 1.7 million vaccine doses from India arrived there, while the country continues to wait for the promised 300,000 doses from China.

To date, India has shipped a total of more than 35 million cans from Covishield - 6.8 million of them free of charge. Covishield is a locally produced vaccine from Astrazeneca. Bharat Biotech International's own vaccine Covaxin is currently in the clinical test phase. Should it be approved, it could further strengthen India's vaccine production and thus also its own position in the region. Most recently, the pandemic had intensified the competition between the two countries for political dominance in Asia.


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