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Shashank Mittal asked: What is vaccine nationalism and what is medical diplomacy?

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  • Rajeesh Kumar replies: Vaccine nationalism is the monopolisation of vaccines by wealthy nations. The 'my nation first' approach in securing and stockpiling vaccines is primarily done through pre-purchase contracts between governments and pharmaceutical companies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, wealthy nations had spent billions of dollars on deals with vaccine developers. More than half of pre-market purchase commitments of COVID-19 vaccines was done by high-income countries, representing just 14 per cent of the world population. They also hoard more than enough vaccines to inoculate their populations while low-income countries scrambled to secure doses. As of 31 January 2022, only 12 per cent of people in low-income countries had received at least one vaccine dose. It compares to 77 per cent in high-income states. According to reports, high-income countries would have 1.39 billion surplus vaccines by the end of the first quarter of 2022, even if 80 per cent of all adults had vaccines and boosters.

    Medical diplomacy or public health diplomacy is a practice to coordinate policy solutions to improve global public health. India's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the striking examples of public health diplomacy. India relied on health diplomacy to strengthen its soft power through donations or technical assistance during the pandemic. First, it has reportedly supplied nearly 446 million hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets and 1.54 billion paracetamol tables to more than 130 countries. The second significant initiative was the “Vaccine Maitri”, to make vaccines available globally. As of 14 February 2022, India has supplied 16.24 crore (approx. 162.43 million) doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 150 countries. It includes 1.42 crore (approx. 14.67 million) doses as a grant, 10.72 crore (approx. 107.21 million) doses by commercial sales, and 4.9 crore (approx. 40.95 million) doses to the COVAX facility. India also donated 200,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the UN Peacekeeping forces.

    Posted on 16 February 2022

    Views expressed are of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Government of India.