1 billion doses of vaccines to combat COVID-19 would be ready by the end of 2022 according to the promise of the group known as Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD), whose member countries are the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.
President Biden announced a vaccine partnership plan on March 12 at the start of the first Quad leaders’ summit.
The newly launched project is “an ambitious new joint partnership that is going to boost vaccine manufacturing, and — for the global benefit — and strengthen vaccinations to benefit the entire Indo-Pacific,” Biden said.
The Quad aims to build on the strengths of the four countries to address the current pandemic crisis and to combat the Chinese Communist Party’s advance.
The commitment reinforces India’s vaccine diplomacy, which has already donated doses to neighbors and others, competing against China’s diplomacy with safer inoculants.
Biden announced in February 2021 a $4 billion contribution to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Center for Global Access to Vaccines (COVAX) program.
With the support of QUAD, the United States joins the international community in supporting access to vaccines in developing countries.
What vaccines does India produce?
Biological E and SERUM are two mass vaccine production laboratories. Biological E will be in charge of the production of 1 billion doses developed by Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceuticals.
SERUM has produced more than 130 million doses for AstraZeneca, which is funded by Bill Gates’ foundation.
Washington will help Biological E to strengthen vaccine production, while Tokyo is betting on favorable loans to India. Australia will supply vaccines throughout Southeast Asia.
Thailand, Indonesia and Hong Kong have started their vaccination processes with the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac. Vietnam, for its part, rejected Beijing’s support and announced the launch of its own vaccine, while AstraZeneca is supplying vaccines.
South Korea, for its part, is moving ahead with the mass production of AstraZeneca vaccines that have been shipped to Taiwan and Japan. The competition for the production of vaccines with a view to diplomacy would bear fruit mainly for China, which has supplied doses to 53 countries.
Vaccine competition between China and India and the positioning of QUAD
Vaccine diplomacy led by Asian giants China and India has had global political consequences, for example India’s decision to support QUAD’s vaccination plans has given the group a boost in the region.
QUAD, pushed by the Trump administration, took a forceful course toward containing the Chinese Communist Party. Beijing has restrained U.S. allies in Asia and has pushed through a series of measures that infringe on the sovereignty of countries in the Indo-Pacific.
On the other hand, competition from vaccines, together with the American bid to strengthen the free and open Indo-Pacific, has divided the stance of countries and organizations in the region.
For example, some countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), such as the Philippines or Vietnam, show their support for QUAD, while others prefer to maintain close ties with China, such as Cambodia, Myanmar or Brunei, given the impact of Beijing’s donations to combat the pandemic.
On the one hand, vaccines produced by Chinese laboratories have an efficacy of barely over 50%. However, it has been the arm with which the Chinese Communist Party has made the world forget the origin of the virus and the response to the pandemic.
China plans to provide 10 million vaccines to the COVAX program, and has also launched a process of vaccine donation to developing countries in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and the Indo-Pacific as of 2020. Currently, Thailand and Indonesia are already vaccinating with Chinese doses.
India, through the Serum Institute, plans to send 200 million doses to the Covax program. In the past, the Indian vaccine industry “has shipped to both developing and developed economies”, including shipments to Myanmar, Afghanistan, Mongolia, the United Kingdom and Canada.