The columnist for RIA Novosti Irina Alksnis analyzed the essence and chronology of conflicts in Western countries over the sequence and provision of a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
Thus, she formally supported the World Health Organization, which is sounding the alarm about the clearly observed unevenness in access to drugs for coronavirus, depending on the level of the country’s wealth. According to the head of WHO, at the moment vaccination is being carried out in about 50 countries – and almost all of them are rich, and 75 percent of all doses were applied in only ten countries.
True, the solidarity of the German leader with the WHO looks like slyness, since justice is a relative concept and can be understood in very different ways.
Almost simultaneously with Merkel’s speech in Davos, the Minister of Health of Germany expressed support for the Brussels initiative to license the export of vaccines produced in the European Union. Jens Spahn was blunt when he said that “in the end, we have advanced several hundred million euros on almost all contracts signed by the EU so that production capacity can be expanded.”
He emphatically noted that “the point is not to be the first, it is a question of justice.” And really, which approach is more correct in such a situation: equally, or should the priority be given to those who invested more in the process?
However, the problem is not limited to the split along the line “poor countries – rich countries”. Moreover, they are secondary, because the main battle for the vaccine has unfolded within the West.
The European Union is louder and louder in the scandal with the Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca. She notified Brussels that it was forced to reduce the contractual supplies by 60 percent due to production and logistics difficulties. Europe is categorically not satisfied with such prospects, and it requires the fulfillment of contractual obligations.
However, this will require supplies to the continent of a drug produced in British facilities. But London, by its own agreement with AstraZeneca, has a priority right to these products. In turn, Europe has a bargaining chip up its sleeve, as it could cut off the export of vaccines produced on its territory to Britain. In general, a vicious circle.
In addition, the UK is already in a much better position. Now about ten percent of the population is vaccinated on the island – against two percent on the continent. The kingdom is projected to receive three times as many vaccine doses as the EU in the first quarter.
The political context aggravates the situation. In light of the just-concluded Brexit, this all looks like a painful click on the nose of Brussels and reinforces the Eurosceptic arguments that the British did the right thing to leave their union. In general, due to the combination of circumstances, the media talk about the possibility of a full-scale “vaccine war” between the parties.
The main problem for the West is not that the scale of vaccine production does not physically allow to quickly meet demand for it – which is why the elbowing is taking place. Other countries, including those that have developed their own drugs, for example, Russia and China, face this difficulty in one form or another. Everyone would like more and faster, but there are objective limits on production capacity.
The biggest problem – or, perhaps, it would be more correct to say a mistake – of the West is that it was on vaccination as a panacea that they made a decisive bet in the fight against COVID-19. Europe (including Britain) in this sense is the purest example of this approach, which boiled down to a simple one: lockdown is the main way the authorities work while waiting for a vaccine.
The result of such a policy is perfectly visible on the streets of European cities: society is already just in a rage from endless severe restrictions. The other day the Netherlands especially distinguished themselves. And there is no end in sight.
At the same time, in Russia and China, the state is showing much more flexibility in its policy. Most of the population experiences minimal inconvenience due to the introduced anti-epidemic measures. The restrictions are relaxed. The situation is generally stable and is gradually improving. The healthcare system is not bursting at the seams. The overcrowding of COVID hospitals is slowly decreasing. The specialists are cautiously optimistic in their forecasts.
In such an environment, the European approach of “keeping and not letting go until everyone is vaccinated” looks flagrantly ineffective. However, to all appearances, the authorities of the respective countries either cannot afford to change their policies, or simply do not understand how they can act differently.
As a result, all that is left for them is to violently rip apart the scarce vaccines from each other.
And, of course, we had to forget about the recent information war against Russian developments – as did Angela Merkel, who offered to Vladimir Putin the support of Germany in the approval procedure for Sputnik V in the European Union.