With the world ravaged by multiple waves of COVID-19, a contagion that is believed to have emanated from the central Chinese city of Wuhan, India has displayed remarkable agility in pulling off a diplomatic coup with its aggressive vaccine diplomacy. As New Delhi has launched a vigorous global blitz by exporting vaccine candidates made in India, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times has sought to belittle the credibility of the Indian-made vaccines with a smear campaign.
In the last few days, India has shipped COVID-19 vaccines to neighbouring countries including Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh. India has, so far, supplied more than 5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the last five days. The country will also be donating more vaccine vials to Seychelles, Mauritius, and agreements with Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are also in place. On Friday last week, Indian-made vaccines also reached Brazil borders and other countries in the queue for receiving the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech developed vaccines.
China, on the other hand, after having bungled up the initial response to coronavirus outbreak, was seeking desperately for redemption after being blamed for endowing the world with an intractable contagion that has so far claimed lives of around 2 million people globally. China was eyeing the vaccine diplomacy as a means to placate hostile feelings among nations that were once firmly embedded in its orbit but were estranged following the coronavirus outbreak.
However, with the past experience of getting faulty PPE kits and masks and the recent reports emerging that the Chinese vaccine candidates were not as efficacious as expected, the world turned towards India for its vaccine requirements. A legion of countries have reposed their faith in the vaccines developed by Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech while shunning their Chinese counterpart. This has irked Beijing and it has resorted to ugly shenanigans to discredit Indian vaccines.
Chinese mouthpiece Global Times runs a smear campaign against Indian-made COVID-19 vaccines
With the world showing little enthusiasm and interest in Beijing’s vaccine candidates, Chinese mouthpiece Global Times has launched a smear campaign against the Indian initiative of distributing vaccines. Realising that they are miserably losing on the vaccine diplomacy front, Global Times launched a propaganda campaign, raising questions over India’s capacity to manufacture vaccines after a conflagration broke out in Serum Institute of India. It also gloated upon how Indians in China were “embracing” Chinese vaccines.
The Chinese state propaganda website cited a BBC report to raise aspersions on the emergency approval granted to the SII-produced Covishield by the Drugs Controller General of India. The report claimed that All India Drug Action Network, a patient’s rights group, said that the approval of Covishield was rushed as the manufacturer had not completed the “bridging study” for the vaccine. The GT further stated that as per BBC, the bridging trials will be conducted by the company in February.
Quoting anonymous netizens and analysts in an article, the Global Times asserted that SII fire may affect people’s confidence in high-quality vaccine production and India’s vaccine production was not likely to keep up with the Indian government’s ambitions. The article cited an analyst to claim that the Indian vaccines were mostly distributed as aid and not many countries are inclined to buy India’s vaccine candidates because of “quality concerns”.
In another article published in Global Times, the CCP mouthpiece quoted Indian restaurant workers in China as saying that they were prepared to be vaccinated by the Chinese vaccines as they had no doubts about its efficacy. The report also claimed that health care was in India were wary of taking the jab of Indian vaccines.
Contrary to what the Global Times would have us believe, India has a commercial contract with several countries. India is supplying vaccines on a contractual or commercial basis to Brazil, Bangladesh, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Morocco. India had last week announced that several countries have expressed their interest in accessing the vaccines. The government had also stated that India would continue to offer vaccines to partner countries in a phased manner while ensuring that manufacturers have enough stocks to meet the domestic requirements.
China’s massive failure in vaccine diplomacy
In contrast to India’s spirited vaccine diplomacy, China’s attempt to peddle its vaccine has been met with suspicions and mistrust. China is struggling to get the world to trust its vaccines, a report published last month said. Surveys in many developing countries, from China’s eternal rental state, Pakistan, to the poorer nations of Latin America, the notion of a vaccine developed by China has evoked scepticism among people, in spades.
The lack of global endorsement, the apprehensions over the efficacy of the Chinese-made vaccines, and the growing mistrust of the clinical trials carried out by them have only served to heighten the misgivings about the vaccines developed by Beijing. Recently, a Brazilian study revealed that the Chinese vaccine is only 50.4 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms. The new results contradict the earlier data provided by the same institute a few days earlier, which claimed that the Chinese vaccine was 78-100% effective against the virus.
Even China’s close allies have shown reluctance in approving the Chinese-made vaccines. Nepal’s regulator is yet to approve the use of Chinese vaccines. The Maldives government sources said there has been no correspondence from Beijing on the delivery of Chinese-developed vaccines. China’s close ally Cambodia has also requested for vaccines from India despite receiving a million vials of Chinese vaccines. A Reuters report published last week said China and Bangladesh are at loggerheads after the latter denied contributing towards development cost of the vaccine.