The Quad Alliance’s early focus on “positive buzz cooperation” and “delivering public goods” would be a difficult narrative for China, said Andrew Small, a senior fellow in the German Marshall Fund’s Asia Program, who suggested this could offer an opportunity model for building American alliances during the Biden administration.
At the heart of the Quad Vaccine Partnership is an Indian manufacturing offensive to deliver the billions of additional doses by the end of 2022, building on what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called India’s “impressive vaccine manufacturing capacity”.
But the Quad is late in the global vaccine diplomacy game – China and Russia have made deals and shipped donated doses to more than 50 countries, largely shunned by Western vaccine makers.
Starting the quad partnership as a set of goals with no implementation plan – those responsible promised to set up a group of experts to manage the partnership – there is a lot of catching up to do.
The quad will also need to navigate carefully with COVAX, which has begun delivering the first 300 million of a planned 2 billion doses to mostly low and middle income countries.
While the Quad partners are all members of COVAX and insist on working cooperatively with the project, delivering the billions of additional cans can be more complicated than just increasing Indian capacity.
Officials from the World Health Organization and the Serum Institute of India have warned against it an existing US export ban on raw materials for vaccines strains COVAX’s ability to quickly deliver the doses it promised the world.
News of the partnership took the news of the partnership as a surprise to the global health and development nonprofits.
A spokesman for the GAVI vaccine alliance, a key supporter of COVAX, said their focus remains “on global equitable access.” Sean Simon, a spokesperson for the ONE campaign, called the announcement “a good example of the multilateral cooperation needed to fight a global pandemic” before adding, “We look forward to similar action in the continent of Africa.”
The ONE campaign calls on the Biden government to build on this National Security Memorandum by “developing a clear plan for the distribution of the millions of surplus vaccine doses America has bought”.
So far, Asian governments have vaccinated around 3 percent of their population, compared to 0.4 percent in Africa.
Strive Masiyiwa, head of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, said in a POLITICO interview this week that speed is the key to ensuring global vaccine equity. “What do we get between now and June? Don’t tell us you’re extraditing us for September. Then ban us to second class citizens, ”he said.
W. Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Liberian Minister for Public Works, disapproved of the politics behind the partnership: “I don’t really understand why you can’t just give people vaccines. It has to be poured into some [sort of] China-USA. Competition? ”He said.
The billions of doses promised would be enough to vaccinate about half of the Asia-Pacific population living outside India and China.
Funding for the new company will come from a combination of loans from the United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC), according to a White House statement. “India expects Quad Alliance members to pay to ramp up production,” said a senior Indian official said Reuters.
The vaccines are made by Biological E, India’s oldest vaccine manufacturer, starting with the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The role of the US in the partnership is likely to be less than that of India. Aside from development loans, it would “use existing programs to further improve vaccination capabilities,” the White House said in a statement.
Japan’s role will focus on funding the vaccines and providing “cold chain support” – the freezing equipment needed to store vaccines.
Australia’s contribution is $ 77 million in last mile funding and delivery services, particularly for 19 Pacific island nations that have transportation links with Australia and close ties with the Australian military.
Many governments put their hopes in the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, which will allow vaccines to be introduced much easier and faster. The single-dose regimen is seen as particularly useful for reaching remote communities, immobile populations, and vaccine skeptics.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is already playing a leading role in the introduction of vaccines in Africa. It has been available in South Africa since February 17, and the company plans to manufacture 300 million cans at a South African facility in 2021.
Carmen Paun contributed to the reporting.