The largest vaccination campaign in history is being a reflection of the inequities that mark the world today. The richest countries have administered 83% of the available COVID-19 vaccines , while only 0.3% have gone to the poorest nations , according to The New York Times calculations . Even before the first immunizations proved their effectiveness, countries with a checkbook and bargaining power had already concluded pre-purchase agreements and options to ensure supply.
Europeans and North Americans, in that order, are the ones who have captured the most injectables, so many that Canada and the United Kingdom have contracted enough doses to vaccinate up to five times their population. At the opposite pole, more than a hundred countries are waiting for the Covax mechanism to be distributed drop-wise, mainly promoted by the WHO, and the poorest are resigned until at least 2023 to vaccinate a significant percentage of their population.
An Abidjan airport operator checks a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines provided by the Covax network to Côte d’Ivoire. AFP / SIA KAMBOU
That disparity in the race for immunity has given his most gifted students the opportunity to advance their geopolitical interests with the vaccine as their currency. China , Russia , India and the European Union have been the first to take positions. Each in their own way. A vaccine diplomacy that is adjusting more to the geopolitical interests of donors than to the needs of recipients.
More than half of the 90 countries to which China has donated or sold its serum are part of its new Silk Road , the initiative with which it aims to increase its influence in the world through investment and infrastructure. India has focused on its neighborhood, ahead of its Chinese competitor in some countries. And Russia has seeded in its old areas of influence, while accepting more orders than its industry is capable of producing so far.
Workers check the arrival of Sputnik V vaccines from Russia at La Aurora airport in Guatemala on May 6. REUTERS
That puzzle is missing the United States, which, although it is late for this race, could soon be in a position to win it. If nothing goes wrong, by early July it will have immunized 70% of its population and donated 10% of its production, as promised by its president this week.
“China and Russia have done well so far, but the US and the EU will soon be in a position to launch a Marshall Plan with their vaccines. That is the scale on which their leaders would have to think,” says the Peterson Institute analyst. Jacob Kierkegaard . He uses three reasons to explain their advantage in the medium term: they will finish vaccinating their population before their rivals, they will have millions of doses left in a few months and they produce the most demanded vaccines on the market due to their high effectiveness.