Vaccine diplomacy New Era of Global Politics and Bangladesh Touhidur Rahman Tuhin
According to the latest (October 3) data from Corona Virus Vaccine Tracker, there are about 44 vaccines in clinical trials of the world and 91 vaccines in animal trials. The vaccine is being closely monitored to make it safe and without side effects. So far, however, there are 29 vaccines on phase 1, 14 vaccines on phase 2 and 11 vaccines on phase 3. Several countries already have 5 vaccines approved for limited use for their own needs. However, no vaccine has been approved for full use.
Bangladesh is very important from the past geopolitical position. Every country which involved in vaccine production wants Bangladesh to use their vaccine. There may be two reasons for the supply of vaccines – firstly, Bangladesh’s huge population and growing economy, and support for Bangladesh in world politics and advancing bilateral relations.
The vaccine diplomacy includes the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Russia and India. In this case, Bangladesh’s position is – open for all policy. Which has clarified Bangladesh’s position in vaccine diplomacy and will welcome those who come forward to provide the most effective and safe vaccines.
China, India, UK, USA and Russia are the countries that produce the most vaccines. The countries concerned are trying to influence the Middle East or Latin America everywhere. It can be said that the countries have entered into a kind of cold war with each other to capture the vaccine market. But the biggest challenge is to ensure that every country gets a safe vaccine on time for all its citizens.
The Oxford University-developed vaccine AstraZeneca was the first to show the world the light of hope to survive the Corona pandemic. It is currently on the third phase and is said to be successful so far. However, in the meantime, the process of deciding who will get the vaccine on a priority basis has begun. Several months ago, it signed an agreement with the Serum Institute of India to develop the vaccine and wants to supply the vaccine to countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia.
On September 30, UK High Commissioner to Bangladesh Robert Dixon said at an event that Bangladesh would be given priority to get the corona vaccine from Oxford, even if the vaccine was not on trial. The United Kingdom is committed to ensuring that everyone gets the coronavirus vaccine when it is produced.
America’s moderna vaccine production is almost close. They are going to initially supply millions of vaccines to the American people. They hope to bring it to market by the end of this year. But the United States is also pursuing vaccine diplomacy from its global position. At the same time, it has promised to supply its neighbors and allies, including Mexico, on a priority basis.
The American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has written to Bangladesh stating that it is also interested in providing timely vaccines to Bangladesh. The company wants to bring the vaccine to the U.S. market with emergency approval by October.
China is also working very fast to invent a vaccine. The Ministry of Health has given permission for the third phase trial of the vaccine “SARS-COV-2” made by Chinovac Biotech Ltd. in China. Due to the vaccine trial in Bangladesh, China has promised to give one lakh vaccines for free initially. At the same time, Bangladesh has assured that the vaccine will be available on priority basis and it is hoped that it will be available by January.
On the other hand, Latin America and the Caribbean countries have borrowed nearly 1 billion just to buy vaccines. China is ready to vaccinate the Philippines and Indonesia as soon as possible. It is interested in developing relations with these two countries. Because these two countries have similar disputes over disputed waters in the South China Sea. The people of Pakistan are eagerly waiting for the China vaccine, said a senior scientific official at the National Institutes of Health in Pakistan.
However, Russia surprised everyone when it came to vaccine politics. The country announced in August that it had developed a successful vaccine against covid-19. Vladimir Putin announced that the vaccine would soon be delivered to the Russian people. But Western countries have expressed doubts about the vaccine. The World Health Organization has also warned that no country should go public without completing all the steps. Meanwhile, Russia has expressed interest in making a vaccine in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is India’s tested neighbor and friend. Last August, India’s foreign secretary paid a surprise visit with a message about vaccine supplies. That message has reached the Bangladesh government. It said India was on Bangladesh’s side and would get the vaccine as a friendly country. Shortly after the visit, Beximco Pharmaceutical of Bangladesh signed an agreement with Serum Institute, a vaccine manufacturer in India. India is in regular talks with Bangladesh on vaccine supply.
Meanwhile, the Hindustan Times also shed light on India’s vaccine diplomacy and strategy. It is seen that India will give its vaccine to the neighboring countries especially Bangladesh, Afghanistan and other SAARC countries on priority basis. India is making diplomatic efforts to supply vaccines to West Asia, Africa and even Latin America. At the same time, they are planning to give vaccine trials in those countries.
For geopolitical reasons, both China and India want to vaccinate Bangladesh on a priority basis. As a result, the government has placed its trust and reassurance in both countries. But China and India have huge populations. Every government will want to ensure vaccines for the people of its own country. We need to think about that and continue to negotiate with the developing countries so that we can produce the vaccine in our own country. However, it must be approved by the World Health Organization.
But we should not depend on China or India for vaccine procurement, but we should have diplomatic contacts with other vaccine inventor countries. For developing or lower middle class countries, usually the World Health Organization and other events such as the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, etc. Bangladesh has already applied to join CoVAX and that application has been accepted. According to the World Health Organization, there are currently 172 countries around the world involved in CoVAX for safe and effective vaccines.
In this situation of world politics, it will not be effective for Bangladesh to sign an agreement with any country now because it is not yet known which country’s vaccine or which vaccine is effective and safe. So we have to wait now for a safe vaccine and keep talks with all countries active.
The government should focus on effective planning and multidimensional strategies to ensure that Bangladesh gets the vaccine at the right time. Because Bangladesh is one of the largest markets for all vaccine producing countries. On this basis, we can bargain with all countries to get the vaccine at a lower price. “Friendship with all and malice towards none” – this is the foreign policy that Bangladesh has been relying on since independence. There is no substitute for having friendly relations with everyone to keep the wheel of the economy moving.
The writer is a Student of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh.