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Lionel Laurent

China and Russia Are Beating the West at Vaccine Diplomacy

While the West hoards Covid-19 jabs like rocket fuel, Russia and China are deploying them strategically around the world.

A victory sign for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

A victory sign for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

Photographer: Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg

It was encouraging to see G7 leaders including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson all on the same page when it came to Covid-19 vaccines last week. With the U.S. back in the fold of global health cooperation as a member of the 92-country Covax initiative, they all agreed to help distribute doses around the world to start healing a pandemic divide between rich and poor.

But beyond the positive sentiment, there’s a troubling lack of action. The gap is already so wide that just 10 countries account for more than three-quarters of Covid vaccinations, while 130 countries have yet to give a single jab. Covax is a welcome effort, but its target this year is to cover just 20% of its member countries’ populations, meaning it’s only part of the answer. The World Health Organization has called the lack of cooperation across continents a “catastrophic moral failure.”