EU needs dose of reality about 'vaccine diplomacy'

2021-03-30 12:07:06

MA XUEJING/CHINA DAILY There is a catastrophic shortage of vaccines against COVID-19 in the world, but at the same time, the world is faced with the threatening phenomenon of "vaccine wars" or "vaccine diplomacy". As part of this policy, China found itself caught in some new conspiracy theory involving vaccines. However, the some of the motives behind this game by the West are quite obvious. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, accused the authorities of the Russian Federation and China of using vaccines against the coronavirus as a means of propaganda. As he said in Brussels, both countries supply drugs for vaccination to other countries "in a very limited amount", but they widely publicize it. The EU has been using any means to block the Chinese vaccine from entering European markets. Moreover, this is being done at a time when Europe itself needs additional volumes of vaccines. A vaccine manufacturer trying to expand the supply of its products to new markets using some form of advertising, mass media and other resources represents a normal economic process in the market economy. For example, Russia is actively promoting its vaccines around the world, and European manufacturers of vaccines are doing the same. It's not clear what, in fact, has sparked this dissatisfaction in Europe. On the other hand, China does not impose its vaccines on anyone. But the question arises, whose interests are supported by the European authorities - citizens or pharmaceutical companies. On the contrary, Beijing is one of the few who is supplying its vaccine to many countries free of charge, realizing that equal access to vaccine should be ensured for both the populations of the wealthiest and the poorest countries of the world. In particular, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that the Chinese authorities are supplying the coronavirus vaccine free of charge to 69 developing countries, as China also sells the drug to 43 more countries. “As part of the COVAX initiative, we have pledged to provide 10 million doses of vaccines to meet the needs of primarily developing countries. China is collaborating with more than 10 countries to jointly develop and manufacture a vaccine with more than 100,000 volunteers,” Wang added at the annual news conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress. Thus, China is currently the most active participant in the COVAX initiative, providing developing countries with a very significant amount of vaccines completely free of charge, while the EU countries are increasingly excluded from this process, lowering the size of quotas for countries outside the EU zone. And the EU's recent decision to significantly restrict the supply of vaccines to countries outside the EU suggests that Europe is openly distancing itself from the policy of equal access to vaccines for developing and poor countries of the world. Isn't this direct evidence of China's disinterested, humanitarian policy? So why is this not being noticed in Europe? It is worth noting that China is confidently offering high-quality and proven protection against COVID-19, as the Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm, Sinovac and CanSino have been repeatedly tested in China. They are already in use in various countries -- such as Indonesia, Brazil, Belarus, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Serbia and UAE -- and they demonstrate some of the highest rates of effectiveness. At the same time, based on the analysis of the global media, European and American vaccines clearly have their flaws and these facts have already been widely reported. The British Astrazeneca vaccine of Oxford University was temporarily banned in a number of European countries due to concerns over blood clots after vaccination. The American vaccine from Moderna is capable of causing skin inflammation more than 10 days after the first dose (according to a letter from the researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine) and is difficult to transport due to the fact that the vaccine must be stored at temperatures no higher than -80 C. Chinese vaccines, however, can be stored in conventional refrigerators. It's already a proven fact that Chinese vaccines are highly effective, while the efficacy rate of the Astrazeneca vaccine, actively used in Europe, is only 60 percent. The EU is deliberately putting forward a whole "package" of claims against China's actions, fearing that the much more effective, safe and easy-to-use Chinese vaccines will oust vaccines developed in the US, Britain and the EU from the European market. But this may well happen regardless. At the same time, by actively blocking Chinese vaccines, the EU leadership is now, in fact, endangering the lives and health of its citizens. At this time, when most of the European countries are experiencing a serious shortage of vaccines, the EU is deliberately shielding its citizens from the possibility of vaccination with highly effective and proven vaccines made in China. Thus, given the dire situation with vaccine availability for Europeans, EU officials should view the Chinese vaccine as an important tool to accelerate vaccination in the European Union. And this comes as the next wave of the pandemic is pummeling the region. In terms of the proportion of those vaccinated, the EU countries are inferior not only to those leading in vaccinations, but also to the UK, which recently left the European Union. Due to its obvious lack of vaccine production capacities, the EU should abandon its attacks and turn to China with a proposal for cooperation in the supply of vaccines to the European market. And this would be the most reasonable decision in the framework of the notorious policy of "vaccine diplomacy". Seymur Mammadov is the director of the international expert club EurAsiaAz and editor-in-chief of Azerbaijan's news agency Vzglyad.az.The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website. If you have a specific expertise and would like to contribute to China Daily, please contact us at opinion@chinadaily.com.cn, and comment@chinadaily.com.cn.