Vaccine diplomacy: the end of the acute stage of the pandemic is within reach next year
It may be possible to end the global pandemic faster and more cheaply than many people realize.
By the middle of next year, the acute phase could be completely over, provided vaccines are deployed fairly.
The key to success – according to the World Bank’s policy research paper âHow to end the COVID-19 pandemic by March 2022â- consists of administering at least one vaccine to about 60% of the population in each country.
The document says the cost of the response, while costly, will prove to be far less than the cost of allowing infections to rise, which would prevent a global economic recovery.
Japan’s New Approach
Even though vaccine deployment has been relatively slow in Japan, the government is now developing a more sophisticated response to COVID-19, which is both international and long-term.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is playing a leading role in an initiative to protect everyone from the virus, including people in developing countries.
This week, Suga led an online event, hosted in Tokyo, designed to urge countries to pledge financially to support the Global Vaccine Alliance, led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The conference was co-hosted by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gavi, JosÃ© Manuel Barroso.
Mr Suga said: “I would like to bring hope in the form of vaccines to as many people as possible around the world equally, as soon as possible.”
Mr. Suga added, âTo meet the needs of the world, Japan, as a developed country, will step up the pace of sharing safe and effective vaccines. “
Afterwards, summit organizers tweeted that the event “raised US $ 2.4 billion from nearly 40 donor governments, the private sector and foundations, exceeding the funding target and bringing the total pledged to AMC COVAX to US $ 9.6 billion at this time day!
Mr. Suga said Japan would donate US $ 800 million to the COVAX facility, in addition to the US $ 200 million already provided by Japan for the program, and use COVAX to deliver 30 million vaccines secured by Japan to other countries and regions.
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Millions of people in Asia are already starting to benefit, including in countries at the bottom of the development ladder.
This week, Pakistan received 100,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine as part of the COVAX initiative, and Bangladesh is expected to receive 68 million doses soon. India and Indonesia are also eligible for the program.
At the Tokyo summit, Mexico and Poland joined the program as new donors. Spain and Australia also announced additional contributions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: âThis is a global pandemic. he doesn’t know politics, he doesn’t know borders and none of us will be really safe until we are all safe.
Companies including Toyota Tsusho – a sogo shosha Toyota-related trading company – also announced contributions at Wednesday’s conference.
Prime Minister Suga is expected to continue to take the lead on the COVAX vaccine issue when he joins other G7 leaders, including President Joe Biden, at a summit hosted by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Cornwall later this month.
The US and UK are way ahead of Japan in terms of the percentage of their populations that have received doses of the vaccine, which has sparked frustration in Japan, with much criticism directed at the government.
However, delays in vaccine deployment in Japan do not primarily reflect a lack of funding. The program has been slow due to a long vaccine approval process, administrative inefficiency and a lack of coordination within the medical profession.
Mr. Suga therefore pledged to tackle Japan’s problems while supporting the international COVAX initiative. He says that by the summer, one million doses of vaccine will be delivered to Japan daily, double the current level. Doctors and nursing sisters were called in to help administer the injections.
The government says that as the deployment accelerates and Japanese companies produce more supplies, there will be enough vaccine supplies to cover domestic needs and export to the world.
At the COVAX conference, Mr. Suga promised: âIn the future, we will provide the vaccines to the world. ”
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Chinese vaccine diplomacy
The main rival of Japan and the United States in terms of vaccine diplomacy is China.
Despite initial skepticism about their safety and effectiveness, Chinese vaccines, such as Sinopharm, are now gaining World Health Organization approval for use in many countries and are included in the COVAX initiative.
In addition to supporting COVAX, China is particularly keen to supply its friends, such as Pakistan. China has shipped around 265 million doses of the COVID vaccine, more than all other countries combined, with commitments to provide 440 million more, according to the scientific information and analysis company Airfinity.
President Xi Jinping also recently said that China will provide an additional $ 3 billion in international aid over the next three years to support the pandemic response and economic and social recovery in developing countries.
There is no chance that Chinese vaccines will be offered in Japan, although both countries support COVAX. However, the initiative gives Japan the opportunity to collaborate with another regional rival, South Korea.
South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum attended the online event hosted by Mr. Suga and said, âVaccines proven to be safe and effective should be produced on a sufficient scale and distributed. rapidly worldwide, including in countries vulnerable to health impacts.
Mr Kim said this would happen “at the right time when we have the right conditions, as we are currently facing the difficult challenges of spreading variants and delays in vaccine supply.”
South Korean President Moon Jae-In will travel to the UK to join G7 leaders at their summit in Cornwall later this month.
Although not a member of the G7, South Korea was offered observer status at the meeting, which provides opportunities for conversations between representatives of South Korea, Japan and the states. -United on health care and other issues.
Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, says: âGlobal access to vaccines is not happening fast enough, and it is in everyone’s best interest that we get there sooner. The longer it takes to protect those most at risk, such as healthcare and social service workers and the vulnerable, the more the virus will continue to circulate and the greater the risk that new, potentially more dangerous variants will emerge.
According to Berkley, “Only governments have the power to speed things up now, turning their commitment to COVAX into action.”
Mr Suga decided it was time to put Japan’s foot firmly on the vaccine accelerator.
Author: Duncan Bartlett
Duncan Bartlett regularly contributes to JAPAN Before and is an associate researcher at SOAS China Institute, University of London. He currently teaches geopolitics and diplomacy to students enrolled in the Economist Executive Education course, the New World Order.