SO much for the US and the West’s incessant portrayal, to borrow that old US Cold War warrior Ronald Reagan’s famous term, of Russia and China as the “evil empires.” So much for their declarations that they are champions of globalism and human rights. The pandemic has torn down their mask: for them, it’s every nation for itself, and who cares if millions more of human lives in the poorer part of the world are killed by Covid-19.
When the vaccine has emerged as the world’s best hope to stop the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic that has snuffed out 2.6 million souls so far, the US, the UK and the European Union have cornered and hoarded the vaccines produced within their borders.
If it is for ulterior motives, that is, to prettify their image and project their power, I wouldn’t care: China and Russia have shipped nearly 1 billion doses to over 60 countries, including huge countries hit badly by the pandemic, such as Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and Chile. Most of China’s shipments so far were donations, as in our case.
In fact, the only vaccines we have been able to secure because of the West’s hoarding are 600,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac, and 400,000 of AstraZeneca, made possible by Covax, a global vaccine-sharing facility set up by the World Health Organization and other philanthropic organizations with funding from the world’s richest nations. For the Yellows to claim that the Sinovac donation is in exchange for our giving up our South China Sea claims is nauseatingly stupid.
An Associated Press dispatch reported on March 2: “China’s vaccine diplomacy campaign has been a surprising success: It has pledged roughly half a billion doses of its vaccines to more than 45 countries, according to a country-by-country tally by the Associated Press. With just four of China’s many vaccine makers claiming they are able to produce at least 2.6 billion doses this year, a large part of the world’s population will end up inoculated not with the fancy Western vaccines boasting headline-grabbing efficacy rates, but with China’s humble, traditionally made shots.”
In sharp contrast, the US refuses to help even its next-door neighbor. The US daily Newsday reported on March 8: “Just this Monday, the Mexican president asked President Biden to share some of the US vaccine supply, promising to return the favor when Mexico, which has the world’s third-highest Covid-19 death toll, receives its contracted deliveries a few months from now. When asked if Biden would grant the request, the White House press secretary replied with a flat no.”
The US’ cousin, Canada, has become the most absurdly selfish country in the world. It has cornered 398 million doses for its population of 37 million, enough to vaccinate eight times the number of its citizens. Not only that. It announced with much fanfare last year that it was contributing $345 million to Covax. It was revealed only recently that it asked Covax that half of that amount was to pay for its vaccine orders.
I am quoting at length US reports to emphasize I am not exaggerating the West’s hoarding. That Newsday article continued:
“Back in January, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had sharp words for such vaccine nationalism: ‘The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses of vaccines from the developers and manufacturers of these vaccines, and some countries have even gone beyond and acquired up to four times what their populations need. … That was aimed at hoarding these vaccines and now this is being done to the exclusion of other countries in the world that most need this.’”
Ramaphosa wasn’t asking for free shots either. He just wanted the West to stop gobbling up the available supply from its companies so doses could be purchased by the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.”
“Nobody denies that it is politically difficult for any leader to send vaccines abroad before every citizen is vaccinated at home. But helping control the pandemic across the world at about the same rate is not just the moral thing to do, it’s sensible. It minimizes the death toll and helps reduce the chance of yet more virulent variants appearing.
It’s also, seen properly, good politics. Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker illustrates exactly how out of the norm the US’ behavior has been. The country has already delivered 24 shots for every 100 Americans. By comparison, China has given 3.7 for every 100 of its residents; Russia 2.7; and India 1.1.
Yet, unlike Biden, the leaders of India, Russia and China have already begun shipping millions of doses abroad. This week, half a million shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the Caribbean from India. Some 2 million doses have been delivered to Mexico, with the rest to follow this month. Argentina is getting 20 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik-V by the end of March. Chile had ordered 10 million Pfizer shots, but just 150,000 arrived. It had to start immunizations with 4 million Sinovac doses from China and has since gained praise for running one of the world’s most efficient vaccine rollout programs.
China, Russia and India have all prioritized their most vulnerable citizens, naturally. But they are also giving the rest of the world a chance to protect those most at risk. Some of their shipments may be self-serving tokenism — but not all. By contrast, the US seems intent on vaccinating its 25-year-olds before octogenarians among its allies. Amid the rush of executive orders in Biden’s first days in office, there was one major exception: Trump’s ban on vaccine exports remained in place.
Many are now asking what kind of superpower the US hopes to be. How can the US reclaim the mantle of global leadership if President Biden won’t even try to make the case domestically for a more generous attitude toward the rest of the world?”
“That both sides of the political aisle in the US seem uninterested in either morality or logic when it comes to vaccines sends a dispiriting message. No country with policies or politics so inward-looking and self-centered can hope to lead the world in the 21st century.”
The WHO’s head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has raised the alarm over the West’s selfishness, which he euphemistically called “vaccine nationalism”:
“New research outlines that global competition for vaccine doses could lead to prices spiking exponentially in comparison to a collaborative effort such as the Covax Facility. It would also lead to a prolonged pandemic as only a small number of countries would get most of the supply. Vaccine nationalism only helps the virus.”
An article in the World Economic Forum’s website warned that the West’s selfishness could backfire: “It’s not only the poorest who will suffer. As long as Covid-19 is not under control everywhere, the cost of the global pandemic will continue to be as high as $1.2 trillion per year, according to research nonprofit RAND Europe. Continued disruption to the world economy, through battered supply chains and weaker demand will continue to weigh on all nations.
High-income countries and regions, including the US, the UK and the EU, are forecast to lose around $119 billion per year, until a global recovery is secured.”