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Vaccine diplomacy

Pakistan will receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from its long-trusted friend China. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced that his Chinese counterpart has offered to gift 0.5 million doses of vaccines which will arrive in the country by month end.

Pakistan has been trying to secure at least two million doses of the vaccines to inoculate the most vulnerable, particularly the elderly and frontline healthcare workers. Countries around the world have refused to hand over until the first quarter of the year until they fulfill their domestic needs. Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed to increase interaction with Beijing considering the sensitivity of the situation. China has immediately agreed to allow Pakistan to airlift the vaccines to save many lives.

The Chinese have stepped to the occasion to provide the vaccine. The Chinese vaccine SinoPharm is also approved in Pakistan and has shown promising results. The gesture should be welcome and will help cement the historic relationship with China. However, Pakistan had even greater requirements and will at least 1.1 million does in the near future. It will be imperative to secure more does from the Chinese as well as other manufacturers.

On the contrary, Indian is engaged in vaccine diplomacy in South Asia by sending shipments to neighbouring countries except for Pakistan which has not requested any assistance. India has two homegrown remedies including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine approved in the UK. Another locally made by Biotech Bharat has skipped trials and its efficacy has been doubted, forcing thousands of people to decline taking the jabs.

The Indian government has urged frontline workers not to refuse the vaccines after almost all states failed to meet their targets in the first few days of the immunisation drive. The vaccines drive termed as the world’s largest has been off to rocky start as many people skipped taking the shots. India now wants to conduct more trials in Bangladesh before approving the vaccine.

The good news is that Pakistan will finally be starting its own vaccine programme. Millions of people need to be vaccinated but countries should not skip vaccines but rather engage in diplomacy for the equitable distribution of resources of the pandemic affects all of us.


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