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Ugly Covid vaccine politics opens Pandora’s box

By , People Daily Digital
Thursday, March 25th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
A Medical worker holding a jab of the AstraZeneca Vaccine. PHOTO/COURTESY

Recent threats by the European Union (EU) to ban Oxford- AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine exports if the company does not deliver the bloc’s quota first , has exposed the unsavoury goings on in the world of vaccine production and development. 

At around the same time this was going on, more than a dozen EU countries temporarily suspended the drug’s imports, following claims by some national vaccine regulators that a significant number of brain blood clot cases were related to the jab.

The World Health Organization reassured of its approval of the vaccine and EU countries have unbanned the jab.

However, health experts and authorities warn the damage has already been done, as the EU currently undergoes a third wave, that is clawing back gains made in the fight against the pandemic.

Observers read politics between the UK and EU as the cause of the crisis. 

It is an issue that cannot be hidden anymore, with the Western media raising the red flag on the simmering controversy.

An article published on BBC on March 20 titled, Covid: Rich states ‘block’ vaccine plans for developing nations, says documents leaked to the BBC Newsnight show claim that “wealthy countries - including the UK - are blocking proposals to help developing nations increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities.” The article reveals these countries include the UK, US and the EU.

Western countries have been accused of engaging in vaccine nationalism, with a cagey approach in sharing of the science of vaccine development and surpluses in supply. 

An editorial published in the Guardian on March 21 stated that “vaccine nationalism, in which states and political blocs vie for supremacy of supplies, now threatens to become a global reality.”

China is among the leading countries in the development of vaccines. According to China’s Mission to the UN, the country had exported vaccines to 28 countries by mid-March. 

The country has been an open book in the vaccine development process.

At least 65 million nationals have been vaccinated in the country with the five internally produced and approved vaccines.

Further, countries like Turkey, Indonesia and the Philippines are already engaged in mass vaccination of their citizens using Chinese vaccines.  

Ongoing vaccine politics have rekindled controversy theories by so called anti-vaxxers.

The latter are cynical of not just the efficacy of some of the vaccines, but their intentions as well.

They raise questions such as why people need to protect themselves similar to the pre-vaccination period.

They question why vaccinated people are still susceptible to both infection and transmission.

Nairobi based African affairs analyst Samuel Kerre says Africa has reason to be paranoid about vaccines from the West: “Africa has largely remained intact and there are more underhand dealings in the West towards Africa.

We must be open to critical and analytical thinking when it comes to what the West offers.

Asking serious questions should not be equated to a conspiracy theory. It is just being cautious.”

Associate Prof Luo Dahai of the Nanyang Technological University is quoted in a BBC article on January 14 saying China’s CoronaVac is a more traditional method (of vaccine) already successfully used in popular vaccines like rabies.

Conversely, “mRNA vaccines (Western) are a new type of vaccine and there is (currently) no successful example (of them) being used in the population.” 

Moreover, Chinese vaccines like Sinovac are pocket friendly to developing countries for their ease of storage, unlike many of the genetically modified Western vaccines that need very low temperatures. 

It is only through genuine efforts to fight the pandemic by all vaccine developers that these politics can be avoided.

Cooperation and empathy are the only ways that the world can achieve a global community of health for all. — The writer is an international affairs columnist