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Nursing staff administer COVID-19 vaccines to frontline health workers in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Nursing staff administer COVID-19 vaccines to frontline health workers in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 29, 2021 (AP photo by Eranga Jayawardena).

The Increasingly Crowded Field of Vaccine Diplomacy

, Thursday, March 18, 2021

As wealthy Western countries carefully guard their national stockpiles of COVID-19 vaccines, raising concerns about “vaccine nationalism,” China and Russia have moved aggressively in the opposite direction—toward vaccine diplomacy. Moscow and Beijing have used their homegrown formulas as powerful diplomatic tools, enabling them to curry favor with poorer nations that have largely been left out of the race to inoculate the world.

Vaccine diplomacy, however, is not the exclusive domain of major powers. Aspiring regional powers, including some smaller countries, are increasingly stepping into the ring too, garnering goodwill by selling or donating vaccine doses. The result is a global battle for soft-power influence that could escalate significantly in the coming months as even more countries join in. ...

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