French President Emmanuel Macron has called for 3 to 5 percent of the European and U.S. vaccine supply to be sent to developing countries to prevent Russia and China from extending their influence over these nations.
In an interview with the Financial Times by video link, he said Moscow and Beijing are offering developing countries, whose vaccination campaigns have barely begun, cheaper vaccines while African countries were made to pay exorbitant prices for Western jabs. This has allowed Russia and China to promote their own vaccines.
“It’s an unprecedented acceleration of global inequality and it’s politically unsustainable too because it’s paving the way for a war of influence over vaccines,” Macron warned.
He said the diversion of a small percentage of doses would not dramatically impact European vaccine rollout campaigns, which have already been criticized for being too slow.
“It won’t change our vaccination campaigns, but each country should set aside a small number of the doses,” he said, adding this should be done “very fast, so that people on the ground see it happening.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also agrees that this should be a concerted European effort, he said. “It’s not about vaccine diplomacy, it’s not a power game — it’s a matter of public health,” Macron added, saying he welcomed the global provision of Russian and Chinese vaccines provided they were certified by scientists for use against the appropriate variants of the virus.
However, when asked by POLITICO, an Elysée adviser said: “I cannot so far tell you in what measure and in what volumes France will give doses. The decision has not been formally taken yet. So, we will inform you evidently when the time comes. But obviously, France is at the forefront when it comes to vaccine solidarity.”
COVAX — the global mechanism put in place to equally distribute vaccines — admitted that the majority of first-round deliveries would only start in March. In response, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for leaders to increase their countries’ contributions to COVAX.