Trio of Nations May Counter Beijing’s Vaccine Offer to India

As India sets new daily records in COVID-19 deaths and infections, some experts see the humanitarian crisis as an opportunity for other nations to counter China’s vaccine diplomacy elsewhere.Three of the nations that make up the Quad — U.S., Australia and Japan — are expected to assist the fourth, India, after U.S. President Joe Biden promised April 26 to provide New Delhi with the China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying gestures during a press conference in Beijing on Dec. 10, 2020.China has denied it is engaged in vaccine diplomacy, and it says it is supplying “vaccine aid,” This handout photo taken on May 3, 2021, shows Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte receiving a dose of China’s Sinopharm to battle the COVID-19 coronavirus at Malacanang Palace in Manila.The partnership allows Quad leaders to take “shared action necessary to expand safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing in 2021” and “work together to strengthen and assist countries in the Indo-Pacific with vaccination, in close coordination with the existing relevant multilateral mechanisms including World Health Organization (WHO) and COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access),” according to a statement the White House released March 12.Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, thinks that the partnership will need to be modified “given that it was dependent on Indian vaccine manufacturing capacity. India will, understandably, prioritize vaccines for its domestic population.”Ideally, such partnerships should be fully coordinated with COVAX and WHO to maximize impact, Adalja said in an email to VOA Mandarin. However, Joe Thomas Karackattu, assistant professor in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, India, where he focuses on Sino-Indian relations and China’s foreign and economic policy, told VOA Mandarin via email that COVID-19 relief cannot become a strategic turf war.”All countries have to work together,” he said. “If the Quad delivers on the pitch for the ‘Quad Vaccine Partnership’ … it might cement a longer-term foundation for the Quad to coordinate on multilateral cooperation, but that necessarily does not automatically translate into an organic and systematic modus vivendi in strategic affairs.” On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that it supports waiving intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines. South Africa and India had proposed the waiver, which is opposed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a group that includes vaccine makers such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. “This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures. The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” wrote U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.This is a monumental moment in the fight against #COVID19. The commitment by @POTUS Joe Biden & @USTradeRep@AmbassadorTai to support the waiver of IP protections on vaccines is a powerful example of 🇺🇸 leadership to address global health challenges.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) May 5, 2021 While a waiver could remove obstacles to ramping up the production of vaccines in developing countries, crafting the waiver may take time because it will require approval from all 164 members of the World Trade Organization.Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report.