India was one of the first countries in the world to realise the potential of “vaccine diplomacy” last year, leveraging its position as a global pharmaceutical powerhouse and relatively mild first Covid wave to launch a hugely ambitious programme dubbed “Vaccine Maitri” - Hindi for “vaccine friendship”.
Yet one year later, India has banned exports and is struggling to produce enough vaccines for its own people – while it is China delivering tens of millions of vaccine doses as gifts to friendly nations and making a profit by selling hundreds of millions more.
Many rich nations have prioritised vaccinating their own citizens above exporting doses to other countries while also having the most advanced research facilities for developing new vaccine candidates. It has created what the WHO calls a “two-track pandemic”, with wealthier countries opening up and vaccinating younger generations while poorer nations struggle to inoculate even the most vulnerable.
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