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COVID-19 a global issue cum strategic tool

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China is to work with the UN to set up a global humanitarian hub in China (AFP)

 

The countries in the world are racing against time to develop a vaccine to fight COVID-19. An urgency is felt because of the Coronavirus taking its toll continually on human lives and economic activities. In fact, the entire world has ground to a virtual standstill.


The World Health Organization (WHO) is ratcheting up resources the world over to fight the disease. Such a coordinated and collaborated global effort is needed to combat the disease since it is not a crisis confined to a particular place or group, but to humanity as a whole.  However, the countries with wherewithal and expertise for anti-virus medical research seem to be competing with each other to produce the vaccine first. Accordingly, it has given the race a nationalist outlook. Likewise, it has manifested in the form of a competition among world powers for global leadership, though it is not stated in that very language.


The contest to be the first to produce the coronavirus vaccine has become a move with geo-strategic connotations since the winner can hold sway in international relations. The winner will undoubtedly receive the accolade and gratitude from the rest of the world.

 

Already, the United States, China, India and the European Union are among the leading powers that have ventured out to produce a vaccine; a task that takes its own course before final success

 

 

Already, the United States, China, India and the European Union are among the leading powers that have ventured out to produce a vaccine; a task that takes its own course before final success.


In the United States, President Donald Trump participated in meetings with health and industry experts in recent times. He is keen on making sure the vaccine is produced in America.


In China, President Xi Jinping announced in his address at the virtual event of the 73rd World Health Assembly that a vaccine, once developed, would be made a global public product. “This will be China’s contribution to vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries,” he said.

 

Both China and the European Union have said the vaccine should be a global public product. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 8 vaccines that have entered clinical trials


Oxford scientists in the United Kingdom are also working fast in the development of a vaccine as soon as possible.
Besides, the European Union organised a global fundraising effort this month for vaccine development. It was able to raise around US $ 8 billion.  Both China and the European Union have said the vaccine should be a global public product which will not submit to market forces. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are 8 vaccines that have entered clinical trials. However, there are 118 vaccine candidates in the world.


Alongside, India is also playing a key role in the global effort for COVID-19 vaccine development. In anticipation of the Oxford vaccine candidate passing trials, the Serum Institute of India is ramping up production. It is a company based in Pune producing 20 vaccines.


Once the vaccine is developed, it will be one of the most needed public goods. There is no doubt that it should be made available cutting across the world without any submission to market forces.  However, given the politicisation of the global COVID-19 response, a vaccine is bound to become a strategic product enabling the first producer to have leverage in its global leadership role. It will have a surging demand from across the world since all the governments want their people to be potent against the virus. 


A vaccine, if developed, would enable the winner to reach out to the rest of the world, particularly developing countries, in winning them over in pursuing their international relations. China has already pledged to set up a cooperative mechanism for its hospitals to pair up with 30 African hospitals. Also, China is to work with the UN to set up a global humanitarian hub in China, as announced by President Xi.


The people of the country that wins the sprint in producing a vaccine will be the immediate beneficiary. The development of a vaccine is a challenging task, though.


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