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India generously donated 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine

India generously donated 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine 0

India generously donated 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine

As many countries are scrambling to secure Covid-19 vaccine supplies, ugly concepts such as `vaccine races` or `vaccine nationalism` are becoming increasingly popular.

But while global vaccine sharing is still very limited and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) vaccine distribution plan has not been successful, India is taking a different path, quietly pursuing `vaccine diplomacy.`

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets vaccinated against Covid-19 in the capital New Delhi on March 1.

The `Vaccine Friendship` campaign has delivered hundreds of thousands of doses of the Indian Covishield vaccine, produced under license from Oxford-AstraZeneca, to about 60 countries.

India has long been famous as the global `pharmacy factory`, producing 20% of generic drugs (drugs with the same activity as the original brand name drug but at a cheaper price) and accounting for 62% of world vaccine production.

Before the Covid-19 vaccine was developed, India supplied hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to about 100 countries and sent pharmaceuticals, test kits and other medical supplies to 90 countries.

Then, even before the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved, Adar Poonawalla, head of the privately owned Serum Institute of India (SII), decided to produce it in a `billion-dollar gamble`.

When the vaccine was approved, SII released millions of doses, providing them to the government for domestic use and export.

Vaccines have been shipped to almost all of India’s neighboring countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Myanmar and Nepal, and also to places as far afield as Seychelles, Cambodia, Mongolia,

Vaccines help India mend tense relations with Bangladesh and strengthen friendly relations with the Maldives.

Contrary to Western vaccines, which are said to be quite expensive, Indian vaccines are promoted as safer, cost-effective, and do not require storage and transportation at extremely low temperatures.

India also has its own calculations when implementing a vaccine diplomacy strategy, in which the highest goal is to enhance its geopolitical position.

Besides, according to experts, India’s vaccine diplomacy strategy also aims to compete for influence with China, amid increasing tensions between Beijing and New Delhi following clashes along the border.

Not only did India surpass China as a supplier of cheap and accessible vaccines, it also acted faster and more effectively.

For example, China has announced to aid Myanmar with 300,000 vaccine doses but has not yet delivered them, while India has provided 1.7 million doses to the country.

In Brazil, surveys showed that 50% of people participating in the poll said they did not want to be vaccinated with China’s Sinovac vaccine.

Indian vaccines even reach rich countries.

Prime Minister Trudeau once declared that the world’s victory over Covid-19 will be thanks to `India’s enormous pharmaceutical capacity and Prime Minister Modi’s leadership to share this capacity with the world`.

India is taking advantage of its vaccine production capabilities to send the message that it can completely resist China’s geopolitical and economic dominance.

While China has not made vaccine data public, leading to a series of controversies about their effectiveness, India invites foreign ambassadors to tour pharmaceutical factories in Pune and Hyderabad.

The contrast in action between India and rich Western nations is equally striking.

According to Duke University Global Health Institute, developed countries accounting for 16% of the world’s population, including Canada, the US and the UK, are hoarding 60% of the global vaccine supply for use on their own people.

Other countries also require purchasing vaccines beyond domestic demand, including Australia, Chile, and some European Union (EU) members.

New Delhi also promised to provide 1.1 billion doses to WHO’s COVAX program to distribute vaccines to poor countries.

Prime Minister Modi once tweeted, `we must stand together in the fight against this pandemic. India is committed to sharing resources, experience and knowledge for global benefit`.

If there is any concern, it is that New Delhi has so far exported three times more vaccines than it has vaccinated its people.

In addition, the number of new nCoV infections in India has not shown a decreasing trend, while new variants appear that may not respond to current vaccines.

Addressing challenges is a vital task for India.

To fight the pandemic, New Delhi has had to strain and take resources away from regular medical care services and generic drug production.

It is uncertain whether promoting soft power through vaccine diplomacy will significantly enhance a country’s standing on the international stage.

Vu Hoang (According to Channel News Asia)

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