Maas warns of ‘vaccine diplomacy’ from China and Russia

Like Germany, China and Russia belong to the G20, in which economically strong countries from all continents have come together to tackle global problems together. At this year’s meeting of foreign ministers, in addition to fighting pandemics, climate protection and aid to Africa were on the agenda.

China and Russia gave vaccines to other countries at a very early stage, thereby earning the accusation of “vaccine diplomacy”. The G7 of the leading western industrial nations last decided at their summit in Great Britain two weeks ago to take countermeasures with their own commitments for poorer countries.

To date, China has delivered more than 350 million vaccine doses to more than 80 countries. What was donated, sold at market prices or sold cheaply remains unclear. Russia delivered significantly less. There are no official figures.

Poorer countries, but also the USA, have been campaigning for a suspension of patent protection for vaccines for some time in order to accelerate the global vaccination campaign. On the sidelines of the summit, Maas declared that he was ready to discuss this in principle. “I think that one basically has to talk about the revocation of vaccine patents,” said the SPD politician, setting a different tone than Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), who vehemently defends patent protection. But Maas also said that this was a very formal and lengthy discussion. Therefore one has to proceed “in two directions”. The first thing to do now is to improve supply chains and expand production facilities in poorer countries. “At the moment, the only thing that helps is what can be done quickly,” emphasized Maas.

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The G20 had already agreed on principles for stronger cooperation in crises such as the corona pandemic at a digital “world health summit” in May. After that, there should no longer be export stops and blocked supply chains as in this pandemic. Vaccine manufacturers also assured poorer countries that more than a billion corona vaccine doses would be delivered by the end of the year.

Many participants in the G20 meeting had already met on Monday at a conference of the coalition against the terrorist organization Islamic State in the Italian capital, Rome. The Italian hosts chose Matera, which is known for its cave settlements and very popular with tourists, as the location for the meeting of foreign ministers. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in 2019 Matera was the European Capital of Culture.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s one-week trip to Europe, during which he was in Germany for two days for his inaugural visit, also ends with the G20 meeting.

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