With the coronavirus pandemic, “vaccine diplomacy” has become a significant factor in international life. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the tools of diplomacy were mostly lucrative loans, customs concessions, scientific and cultural exchanges. Yet now, vaccines have been added to these tools, and the diplomatic effect has been far more significant than anyone could have anticipated. First of all, it has a disproportionately more substantial influence on minds and has therefore become very actively used primarily by Western countries, that have tried in a blatantly unscrupulous struggle to actively hinder the certification and recognition of the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” in international markets, and instead push their vaccine, although from the beginning many Western vaccines have come under fire from Western media for the negative and even deadly consequences.
In addition, “vaccine diplomacy” has been increasingly used by leading vaccine monopoly countries to promote their advantage and strengthen their global expansion. This was especially evident in the propaganda rhetoric of individual media outlets, which tried to show in blatantly paid articles how a “big country” that provides a small country with a vaccine becomes a much more important partner than the other countries that seemed so important before the pandemic. That is, the use of “soft power” has unfolded in all its glory.
It is also worth noting the fact that vaccine diplomacy affects the powerful caste of today’s Golden Billion: from doctors, who are used to making good money from clinical trials, to pharmaceutical manufacturers, who are used to selling their products with excessive profits. And this is especially evident in the activities of Pfizer and Moderna, which are demanding businesses laden with a vast number of shareholders, loans, and liabilities, and whose profits have grown exorbitantly as a result of “vaccine diplomacy.” For example, Moderna, a US pharmaceutical company that makes a vaccine for COVID-19, reported a 65-fold increase in revenue for the second quarter of 2021 to $4.4 billion, with a net profit of nearly $3 billion. On August 1, anti-COVID drug manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna, as the Financial Times reports, referring to the parts of the contracts in its possession, raised the price per dose for the European Union, even though earlier scientists on the website medRxiv said that the effectiveness of the vaccine Pfizer had lowered.
And so Western diplomacy, which has lived with racial discrimination for centuries, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries, and is used to dividing people along racial, national, or class lines, has decided to take up “vaccine diplomacy” to further officially divide the world’s population.
US President Joe Biden, usually relatively restrained in terms of harsh rhetoric, recently staged an apparent provocation, notes Handelsblatt. He spoke of a pandemic of the unvaccinated, suggesting the guilt of those who refuse to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. It is this debate that Western societies are now engaged in with increasing urgency. Ultimately, it is a question of what rights vaccinated citizens will have and what rights unvaccinated citizens will be deprived of. As a result, a two-class society of vaccinated and cured people on one side and unvaccinated people on the other has long been a reality, notes the publication. For example, Italy is introducing a compulsory “green passport,” and to visit almost all public places (in particular, theaters, concerts, museums, swimming pools, sporting events, exhibitions, and the interior of catering facilities) will require at least one vaccination, confirmation of a previous illness or a negative test for coronavirus, which was made not earlier than 48 hours before it is presented. These restrictions may also apply to ships, long-distance trains, and aircraft (although the government has not yet reached an agreement), reports the publication. For those who refuse to be vaccinated, life can get pretty expensive, so it’s not surprising that thousands of people have been protesting this two-class society in recent weeks.
A document that will be an entrance ticket to many areas of public life in France is the “health passport,” which since July 21 is mandatory for attendance at all recreational and cultural events with more than 50 participants.
In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) app has been offering a digital COVID pass for days. The government considers making the COVID pass mandatory for entry to nightclubs and other establishments starting in October. However, a decision has not yet been made, as there is considerable resistance among the Conservatives in the House of Commons.
Tough times are coming for unvaccinated people in Greece as well. The interiors of restaurants, cinemas, and theaters are now only open to visitors who have had COVID-19 within the last six months and can confirm that they were vaccinated at least 14 days ago. They must also provide a QR code confirmation from the national health authority.
In the US, vaccinated people are already privileged: New York City has required restaurants, bars, gyms, and other establishments to check customers’ vaccination certificates. “If you want to participate fully in public life, you need to get vaccinated,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out. The New York real estate developer Related plans to fire employees who have not had at least one vaccination by the end of August. In addition, the US may require foreign nationals entering the country to be vaccinated, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients said.
However, most companies and countries do not give much thought to compulsory vaccination because it is legally questionable. Many governments also oppose compulsory vaccination except for certain professions, such as care for the sick and elderly and catering.
Fear of a pandemic wave caused by the “Delta” variant of the coronavirus indeed defines mass vaccination of the population of countries as the leading way to combat COVID-19. However, this work should not be conducted in the form of a new division of society into classes but through increased advocacy with respect for human rights and international norms. Convincing people to get vaccinated against coronavirus without resorting to mandated vaccination should be a top priority to avoid more victims suffering from a coronavirus pandemic.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.